Queen of Blades and Roses – Chapter I

Hey book lover! I’m working on a  new book, Queen of Blades and Roses, which is expected to hit the Zon at the end of August. Read the first chapter , and feel free to comment or e-mail and tell me what you think. This is a passion project for me, on which I’m working in parallel along with the next book of the Legends of the Fae series! So here we go.

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A cursed beast lurks in the woods outside my village, and it wants one thing—me.

I learned to fear the Scorpio Beast many years ago. He is the most dangerous thing out there, brutal and cruel, so when he takes me captive in exchange for my brother’s freedom, I know to expect the worst.

Yet deep into the ruins of his ancient castle, I discover there’s more to Ares Amberson than his ruthless reputation. There’s a tortured soul behind his mask, and a sensual touch inside his iron fist. There’s also more to my own past than I ever knew, a secret buried in my bloodline that Ares wants to use me for. But in order to unlock my dormant powers, he needs to teach me.

Train me.

Seduce me.

Ruin me.

The pull I feel towards him is wrong on all levels, but I’m hooked on the devilish pleasures he’s giving me. I must fight against it, or die trying. The secret of our bloodlines makes it impossible for us to be anything but rivals, polar opposites, enemies. In the end, there can be only one on the throne of the kingdom that we were both born to rule.

The Curse

The Cursed Woods looked almost romantic from the window table at the Fyre Dragon Inn and Pub. Soaked in the scents of hearth and ale and leather, this was a place where stories had been born for many, many years, and most of those stories were about the Cursed Woods.

But the truth lurking in the hilly darkness spreading out between Azoth Hollow and Doomsday Mountain was far from the romantic adventure the pub’s storytellers made it out to be. They never told things the way my brothers and I gave it to them—raw and gut-wrenching. It frustrated my brothers. As for me, I didn’t take it quite as personally. After decades of suffering under the effects of the Spades fae’s curse, people needed some fantasy to keep them sane, and I felt for them. Not so my brothers.

“Do they even see our bleeding hands when they take the gold from them?” Thornan grunted, cocking a thick black eyebrow at the loud crowd from behind his pint. Scars adorned his rough fist, and his rugged looks placed him well beyond his twenty years. Part of that were his aggressive features, but most of it was what we had been doing for a living for years.

It had turned all three of us into brutes, even if it was less obvious in me, probably because I was female. One that dealt better with swords and knives than with baking, laundry and child-rearing, but still female. I had been fighting in the Cursed Woods for over a decade to help this village survive, and I was a Scavenger before anything else.

Once every month, my brothers and I put it all on the line venturing into that forested hell, hunting for treasure—and books, which were the rarest and most valuable items. I sure lived for the occasions when we found them. We spent the rest of our time training for our incursions into the woods. It took over our lives completely, but gold, silver and gems were the only things that got the people of Azoth Hollow through the winter. It helped us buy stuff from the other human settlements that didn’t have to suffer under the Spades’ wrathful curse, the curse that had turned our home into a haunted village.

Azoth Hollow intrigued outsiders and travelers, it fascinated them, but no one in their right mind would spend a full moon night here if they had a choice. As for leaving this place to settle somewhere else—others had tried before, and failed miserably. Being born here was like a scarlet letter, as if we could carry the curse into the wider world.

And maybe we could. We didn’t know for sure, but the curse might well have affected all of us in some way.

One sure thing was that our village wasn’t safe beyond nightfall on the three full moon nights of every month. Ghosts would creep onto the streets, hungering for human flesh. Consuming it made them feel alive again, even if only for a few hours. They were spirits of dead Scorpio fae, cursed by the Spades to dwell between life and death forever, unable to resume complete physical form or to cross into the spiritual world for good.

The spirits couldn’t enter cottages uninvited, but whatever they caught outside was theirs for the taking, and they never spared a life. Their hunger for flesh was beyond themselves, almost vampiric.

It was these stories that drew travelers to Azoth Hollow like moths to a flame. It was also why the three men at the bar were here, talking to Big Reo, the inn keeper. Checking them out from the corner of my eye, I’d have said they were monks.

“Those idiots, look at them,” Kovra groaned next to me. “Scented clothes, heads swimming with bedtime fairy tales, happy to believe all that bullshit.” He banged his pint on the table, the ale sloshing over the edges. “There are no fucking fairies in the Cursed Woods,” he called out, drawing the three strangers’ attention. “No fucking mermaids in its murky lakes. Only slimy stuff coiling around your feet, skeleton hands reaching out from the mud to pull you in, scorpions roaming around every fucking pile of treasure. It’s hard-earned silver that pays for this ale.”

Kovra tossed his ale down, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and looked away. I could only hope the three men wouldn’t dare to come over, but Big Reo leaned in and whispered to them who we were. The strangers’ eyes widened as he spoke, their curiosity and spiking interest obvious in their neat, monkish faces. One of them, probably the leader, licked his lips greedily, but still hesitated, which was understandable.

Kovra’s androgynous voice was one of many misleading things about my twin brother, but his words and tone always had a sobering effect. He was angry, always on the edge, and very efficient with a blade which, for some reason, shone through in him the most. We were both blonde, blue-eyed, fair skinned and half-fae, the last part making us particularly beautiful to the human eye, but that was pretty much where the similarities between us stopped.

Kovra was everything his name suggested. Fierce and swift. He’d inherited the fae looks of our mother, but his mordacity he got from Da, the best blacksmith in Azoth Hollow, and once the best blacksmith in the Golden City of Celestia, too. Yet my twin and I would have been seen as abominations in Celestia. Hybrids between fae and humans were extremely rare, and even those rare ones were born of human mothers and fae fathers, from affairs that rarely survived the night of conception. But Kovra and I were the product of a forbidden love between a fae princess and a human blacksmith, a story that ended in tragedy.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, Da got cast out of Celestia, and sent back to Azoth Hollow with my brother and me when we were still babies. Grief for our mother almost killed him, but the Allmother took mercy, and a kind girl from the village fell eternally in love with him. I guess there’s no resisting a handsome blacksmith with a broken heart. Thornan was the result of that union, two years later. They’re fine together, Da and Thornan’s mother, but I think Da never stopped being nostalgic about Celestia, and his lost love.

Sometimes, on clear days, you could see the city with the naked eye on top of Doomsday Mountain. But such days had been rare over the last two decades, ever since the Spades usurped the Scorpios. The curse spread a permanent veil of clouds over Azoth Hollow, unleashing hell into the woods covering the hills between it and the mountain.

These were the kinds of stories that travelers came here for, and that sure wasn’t any different for the three monks heading over to our table right now.

“May we join you?” the leader inquired, sinking his hands into the wide brown sleeves of his monkish garment. The other two drew close to him as they flanked him, looking fearful but greedy for information. A holy trinity of well-fed, well rested boys. I wondered how much they were willing to risk for the knowledge they desired.

My brothers had clearly already decided the monks weren’t worth the effort of even opening their mouths. Thornan took another sip of his ale, while Kovra shot them a killer glare. Chills ran through the flankers, but number one kept his ground.

He pulled a chair, and sat down. The old wood creaked.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Kovra demanded under his breath and shot forward, his long blonde hair framing his face like glinting platinum. It made a fierce contrast with his pale blue eyes, sharp nose and the angry curve of his lips. I was his female version, only that my hair was golden and up in a tight pony tail on top of my head, my eyes sparkled more, and my lips were fuller, all an effect of the vestigial lust-inducing magic I’d inherited from our fae mother.

“We don’t remember inviting you to take a seat,” Thornan bit out.

“Big Reo there said you were The Scavengers,”  the leader said. “You’re famous.”

“Very famous,” the monk to his right chimed in. I named him number two.

“You have no idea,” number three said from the leader’s left.

“Fuck off,” Thornan growled.

“We have money,” number one put in, and pulled a pouch from his sleeve. It landed on the table with the telltale clink of precious metal. Coins. “We understand that people like you don’t let other people partake in their experiences just like that. They’re valuable, the things you’ve lived, the things you’ve seen. We understand that, and we’re willing to pay for the privilege of learning.”

“So, you want to learn,” Kovra said through his teeth. “How about you join us tomorrow, and learn by doing?”

Thornan burst into a raspy laugh that made number one’s throat bob, but he got a grip quickly. He reached to the pouch, unfastened the leather string around it, and spilled its contents onto the table. Thornan’s dark eyes fell to the silver coins. He ran his tongue over his teeth, his face unreadable to the strangers, but Kovra and I knew exactly what he was thinking. We had every intention to back him up, so my twin took on an even colder, forbidding and opaque demeanor, while I leaned back to let my brothers take center stage. This could prove lucrative.

“What’s this supposed to mean?”

“Like we said—”

“A few chipped silver coins? We get that within the first few minutes in the woods.” That was a lie, but Thornan was the kind of guy you took seriously.

The monks looked at each other and, after a few moments of hesitation, number two pulled a second pouch from his sleeve. When the contents spilled on the table, Thornan’s eyes glinted.

“Diamonds and sapphires,” number one stated proudly, pushing out his smooth boyish chin. “Originals from Celestia.”

“Celestia,” Kovra said. “And how does a man like you possess something from a Golden City?”

“My brothers in faith and I come from the oldest monastery in Northern Kaledonien.”

“Hmm,” Thornan purred. “Where the pilgrims go.”

“Yes. Where the pilgrims go. They bring much value to our holy place, new knowledge, exotic goods.” He looked down at the gems. “Rare items.”

“Then why did you need to come here, to this cursed place? Why search for the stories when the stories come to you?”

“Because only here we can learn the truth about the most famous monster in the world. The Scorpio Beast.” He bent in with greedy eyes, but lowered his voice to a whisper, as if the name alone could strike him dead. “He’s said to dwell in the Cursed Woods. Ares Amberson.”

A heavy silence spread out at our table, dampening the nearby chatter. There wasn’t much noise to begin with, not with everyone’s ears turned toward the conversation at this table, but even the little cacophony there had been died down now. It was the effect of that name each and every single time someone spoke it out.

“Ares Amberson,” the leader monk pressed on. “The cursed heir of the Court of Scorpio, the—”

“We know who the bastard is, we don’t need a fucking profile,” Thornan spat out.

The monk licked his lips, his eyes so big now I could see the red under his lower eyelid. My eyes flicked down when he put his hands on the table. It was my job in the team to take in the details and evaluate danger.

“Heroes from many parts of the world come to Northern Kaledonien, and all of them know about the Scorpio Beast. But we never met anyone who’d actually laid eyes on him. He became a myth with too many versions. We’re here for the truth.”

“Why would you even want that kind of truth?” Kovra grunted. “I would un-know it anytime if I could.”

“And I can understand that,” the monk said. “You and your siblings have been through hell.”

“You understand nothing,” Kovra burst out, shooting forward and causing the monk to snap back into his seat. My twin held out a long, scarred finger in the monk’s face. “Don’t you fucking patronize us. We’re sick of you useless scribes coming around, going all paternal on us. You have no fucking idea what it’s like to feel death’s cold breath wrapping around you from the moment you enter that cursed darkness. That place out there—” He motioned with his head towards the window and the woods. “That place is hell. You want to know what it’s like? With pleasure. Tag along tomorrow, and we’ll show you.” His eyes glinted pale blue from under white-blonde eyebrows. “Unless, of course, you’re afraid we’re going to take your treasure and use your ass as fodder for the very beast you’re so eager to see.”

Number one stared with a blank face for seconds before he spoke again.

“We’re not looking for the beast. We’re looking for the truth in order to write about the beast, and keep the accounts forever protected in our library, and you of all people should see why. Don’t you think the world should know about what’s really happening here?”

“We think the world should fucking help,” Thornan interjected. “But it’s easier to just come snooping around, and then get out of town before darkness falls.”

“I think they should know about the Scorpio Beast,” I chimed in, drawing the three monks’ attention.

“Oh?” one of them breathed, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “She speaks.”

I gave him a smile meant to make him uncomfortable. Why wasn’t I surprised that he didn’t like a woman speaking?

“We know one or two things about him, it’s true,” I began, keeping still as a statue. The monks stared mesmerized as I spoke, surely because of my looks. The fae traveled the world of men only rarely, and they tended to keep their faces obscured under hoods on most of those occasions.  Kovra and I might well have been the closest thing to fae these three men had ever seen, and my appearance as a female was even more specific. I proceeded to give them some of the knowledge we’d gathered about the beast.

“Ares is the eldest son of the late Scorpio King, Zavros Amberson, and his wife, Lumeia. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. King Gariel of the Court of Spades killed both King Zavros and Queen Lumeia when he took over Celestia. For that, he used black magic, because he wouldn’t have won against Zavros any other way. The Scorpio King was the world’s best fighter, and some said his wife was one hell of a strategist. She was the commander, and he was her General. Together, they were an unbeatable force, so Gariel turned to dark powers in order to defeat them. He sold his soul to the devil, if you like. I’m sure you of all people understand the concept. Ares and his siblings survived the terrible curse that fell over their court, but at a great cost.” My voice lowered, my tone darkening. “They had to integrate the curse, to let it run through their veins. They had to become one with it, and live with it like with a disease. They were all small children when this happened. It is said Ares had the worst fate of all. Have you heard anything about what this curse did to him, honored clergymen?”

The leader blinked as if recovering from a mesmerized trance. “Indeed, yes. The curse, ahm—” He scratched the back of his head. “Like I said, the Scorpio Beast has become a myth in its own right. There are many speculations.”

“Let us hear some,” I encouraged him.

“Well, there are those who say he can kill with seduction. He can give pleasure, but that’s all an illusion. In truth, terrible things happen to people’s bodies when they think they’re being pleasured by him. Where they feel a caress or the stroke of a tongue, it’s often the tickle of a scorpion. But that’s only one of the many theories.”

“Why am I not surprised you chose one related to carnal sin? But the beast is about more than that.” I placed my elbows on the table. They made a blunt clanging sound against the wood from the elven protective plates I was wearing over my black mail. Elven armor, scavenged from the woods.  The metal in my outfit had the Scorpio heraldry carved into it, the intricate undulations of a scorpion. Everything that belonged to the Court of Scorpio, including their treasure, had been thrown out into the Cursed Woods in the aftermath of the bloodbath, imbued with the same curse, which rendered the treasure untouchable by fae of Spades blood. Luckily, my twin and I were only half fae, and our mother had belonged to another court, so we could make good use of what we found.

“Let us start with the beginning,” I told the eagerly listening  monks. The leader’s looks had turned slightly more lecherous, but I didn’t mind just yet. I wanted their masks off. “Tell me, clergymen, do you know how fae names are chosen?”

The two flankers shook their heads no, while the leader kept staring.

“From their birth, fae emit a certain kind of energy. An aura, if you want. Like the name suggests, Ares Amberson was first and foremost a warrior prince, because he was born with martial magic. He would one day become head of the Scorpio Army. But the dark magic King Gariel cast over the Scorpios twisted what was already inside the children. For example, it turned Ares’ little brother, Taurus, into a nasty shifter that goes mad at the scent of blood. You can hear his chilling howling on full moon nights, and you can be sure no creature happening in his path escapes with their lives.

“It turned his sister Lybra into a dark executioner, a creature that will deliver justice in cruel ways. It’s not unlikely to find a wayward clergyman with obscure sins hanging from a cross with his insides spilling out of him.” I bent in closer over the table, driving tension into the monks like a rod up their asses. Only number one retained some measure of control over his facial expressions, while the others stared like they weren’t sure they wanted to listen to this anymore. “Can you imagine what it turned Ares into?”

Snorting laughter broke through my story, giving the poor bastards some respite. It was Thornan, unable to hold back his amusement.

“Look at them, staring like you’ve turned into the fearsome creature yourself. Relax,” he slapped number two’s back, nearly throwing the man off his chair. “It’s just my beautiful lady sister. For now.”

“Let them answer my question,” I said through my teeth, not trying very hard to hide my displeasure. I made a mental note to ruin my little brother’s fun the first chance I got, too.

“A devil,” the leader said quietly. There was fear in his voice, but also reverence. My cheek twitched.

“People shouldn’t revere monsters, clergyman, for whatever reason. It’s not like it’s real admiration anyway. It’s just a suck-up to power. Yearning for a monster’s approval is a weak man’s business. And even monsters despise weak men. They use them, chew them up, and then spit out the leftovers.”

“Have you ever seen him?” he managed.

Kovra scoffed by my side.

“You don’t see the Scorpio Beast and live to tell the tale. He’s killed more monsters with his bare hands than we ever slayed with our weapons. Facing creatures like Ares Amberson isn’t how you survive those woods.” He pointed to the darkening window behind him. “And it’s sure as hell not how you scavenge treasure every month to help this village survive.”

“Find a place by the hearth to spend the night, clergymen,” I concluded, leaning back in my chair. “Brace yourselves, because tonight you’ll hear the lamentations of ghosts, and the howling of Taurus. This, gentlemen, is the most dangerous night of the month—the last of three full moon nights. Not a great time to arrive in Azoth Hollow, but it seems that’s how your fate would have it. Tonight, death descends over the village, taking on treacherous forms. That’s why we gather in large groups in places like this.” And why we, The Scavengers, would go on our monthly hunt the next day, but I left that out. The monsters gave their all on these nights, and they slept deeper the next day, which made it easier for us to move through the Cursed Woods. “I hope you appreciate the great opportunity you’re being offered. You’re going to experience the thrill of your lives, but beware. The ghosts will call on you, using their power to lure you out of your sanctuary—the very reason we stay together on these nights. Whatever happens, don’t even think about leaving the inn, because you will certainly die.”

I took no pleasure in sowing fear, and I pitied number two and three. Poor bastards fidgeted in their seats, turning to their leader, searching his face for reassurance. But number one, he deserved every ounce of this.

“You shouldn’t be joking about these things—” he paused, realizing he didn’t know my name,“—milady.”

“Vyper Gladwell is the name,” I offered impassibly. “And these are my brothers, Kovra and Thornan.” My twin and my little brother raised their pints as I gave their names. “And I assure you, we of all people take these things very seriously. Just look around.”

Patrons looked away as the monks turned to analyze their surroundings more carefully. Mothers and children had already started to pour in, raising the noise level. Babies wailed in women’s arms. A bunch of chickens used the chaos to slip in as well, expertly scuttling their way among people’s feet.

The Fyre Dragon Inn and Pub wasn’t the only place of gathering in town, but it was where The Scavengers spent the night, and people felt safe with us.  Some of the women walked over to say hello before they started up the stairs, screaming at the children to stop running and stomping. Big Reo always reserved the rooms upstairs for women and children, and he had a soft spot for chickens, too. The monks’ eyes swept over the thick sheepskins and the fire logs stapled by the fire where a group of men had already settled in, close the hearth.

The leader stood up swiftly, realizing he’d have to move fast if he was going to get a spot close to the hearth. He hesitated for a moment, his eyes moving from the hearth to me and back again. Sure, he was uncertain whether to leave our conversation about the Scorpio Beast. I often found myself wishing sensation  mongers like him would get a taste of the horror stories they came looking for, of the horrible things that happened to other people.

“We’ll talk some more about this in the morning?” he probed. I folded my arms across my chest.

“If we live until morning.”

The other two got up and crammed around him like scared children. The bastard found it in himself to bring about a grin.

“I don’t expect this will be The Scavengers’ last night. If you expected it were, you wouldn’t be so relaxed.”

Kovra burst into grating laughter. “Oh, believe me, clergyman, we’re not relaxed.”

“We’re just a wee bit drunk,” Thornan added, while I said nothing. The monster admirer wasn’t worth it, so I might as well save my breath.

“You’ve outdone yourself, sister,” Thornan said after the travelers left, working their way among the crowd to reach the hearth. The closest spots were already taken, but they could still squeeze in by the bar, if they curled their knees up. My brothers and I would take up position by the door, like we always did. We were here as protectors, not protégés. We hadn’t had a careless night’s sleep since we got out of diapers. “You scared the shit out of them.”

“I like this new skill of yours,” Kovra said, proudly raising his pint.

I raised mine, too. “Bottom’s up, boys. Within the hour, these streets will be swarming with ghosts.”

My brothers joined their pints to mine. I took a long pull and set mine down, turning my head to the window. Night was nearly upon us.

Our job wasn’t something that one ever got used to. The third full moon night in a month brought nightmares to life, and surviving it was never easy, especially since The Scavengers weren’t by far the badasses we projected to the village. But thinking we were strong made the people of Azoth Hollow feel safe, so we let them take comfort in that lie. The three of us were good fighters, but no real match for the evil out there.  

A claw squeezed my heart as we took our places by the door, yet it didn’t have to do only with the hungry ghosts out there. I had enemies in this room too, among the very people we protected. Some believed I was the real reason why the curse had spread over Azoth Hollow, and now those men sat right by the monks. It wasn’t long until they huddled together in conversation, eyes on me.

“They’re not even trying to fucking hide it,” Thornan grunted, flanking me on my right, Kovra to my left. “Back in the day, they would have burned you at the stake.”

“Back in the day, I would have cut their balls off in the main square,” Kovra pushed through his teeth, his sharp jaw tight. “It’s what they’d deserve for being stupid today, too.”

“We all know it’s not stupidity that makes them hate me.” I hooked my fingers into the leather girdle around my waist. “It’s the lust I awakened in them when I was girl, and my powers went as crazy as my hormones. It was a scary time for all of us.”

“You were only twelve, Vyper. It’s not like you were trying to seduce drunk middle-aged men,” Kovra said.

“Yeah, well, no way of convincing them of that,” I whispered, looking away from the group, and trying to swallow the knot of disgust in my throat. “Placing blame is natural. We all do it.”

“Yeah, but not when it means punishing a mere child for our own perverted nature,” Thornan added. “I’m with Kovra. Stupidity should be as deadly as bubonic fever.”

“It’s the ghosts out there that are going to start killing unless we focus on our job,” I said, fitting two curved magic blades into my girdle. They were rare finds that could make ghosts dissipate into thin air and get sucked back into limbo.

Before long, hissing seeped into the night, a full moon rising in the sky. I watched it through the window as it took over the firmament like a queen of the underworld. I focused on it to center myself as trapped fae souls took to the streets, whispering. The room went awfully quiet as the ghosts started circling the inn. People huddled together, barely breathing. The only sound inside was the rustling fire that spread out a dim but dependable glow over the space. Upstairs, mothers and their children kept a grave-like silence.

Twenty years ago, when all this began, it had been easier for the ghosts to lure out terrified children. It wasn’t long before their mothers followed, desperate to save them. They could easily feast on Azoth Hollow. Now, decades later, people had toughened up, but the ghosts had also upped their game. My hands tightened on the hilts of my blades as ghostly whispers slithered under the door. They couldn’t infiltrate the inn, but they’d start using some of their uglier tactics soon enough. The spectral lamentations of a mother in an attempt to draw out a kindred spirit wanting to help filled the air, the cue that the fight for our lives was on. The sound was gut-wrenching, appealing to deep-seated instincts in a mother’s heart. A few years ago, one of the women had thrown herself out the window over something like this, and I couldn’t stop her. I was too late, and that was going to haunt me forever, but I’ll be damned if I’d let it happen again.

My muscles tensed, my eyes sharpened, and my hands wrapped tighter around the daggers at my waist. I would be ready this time.

Failing to get anyone to respond, the sound morphed into the wailing of babies, and then the calls of long lost, dead parents.

“Fuck it,” Thornan spat out. “They’re extra vicious tonight. Someone’s bound to fall.”

There was a heavy fatality to that statement that neither Kovra nor I could deny. Allowing yourself to be blindsided didn’t help things. We couldn’t know what everybody was hearing, because the ghosts could sound like anyone they loved. They lured people outside with promises that, if they got out there, they would be reunited with their lost loved ones. Only that this time it wasn’t a mother longing for a dead child that sought her way out. No. The one who stood and made his way towards the window, squinting, was none other than clergyman number one.

Of course. Unlike the locals, the monks were inexperienced. Easy prey.

“No,” Thornan hissed. “Get away from there.”

But the man was already entranced, mentally beyond Thornan’s reach. Those huddling on the floor didn’t bother to stop him because the foreigner going down meant more chances for the locals to survive the night. Maybe his flesh would appease the ravenous spirits. All the other watchers were upstairs with the women and children, which made us, The Scavengers, the only guardians on the ground floor. That also meant that the clergyman was our responsibility.

“Fuck! Stupid idiot,” Thornan spat out as he made his way toward number one. He got to the man before he could get to the window. The ghosts could take the shape of the Allmother herself, for all we knew, making him capable of anything.

A howl ripped through the air just as Thornan pushed the clergyman away. It sent ripples through the windowpane.

The howl of Taurus.

The blood froze in my veins, and my hands on my daggers. That was close. Too close. And if Taurus lurked in the area, Ares, the crownless king of the Court of Scorpio, wouldn’t be far.

Fuck me, this night would be the nastiest one yet. My pointy ears shifted imperceptibly as I focused on the sounds of night.

I watched Thornan with wide, unblinking eyes as he turned slowly towards the window, his lips parting.

“No! Fuck! Thornan!” Kovra sprang up, ready to sprint over and push our brother down to the floor. But what if the evil got to him, too? All I knew was that I couldn’t lose my brothers.

I shot up to my feet, jamming my shoulder into Kovra, and shoving him aside so I was the first to reach Thornan and place myself as a shield in front of him.

An icy fist tightened around my heart. My only luck, if I could call it that, was that fear always anchored me, making me hyper aware of my surroundings, which always proved an advantage. Even people’s breathing turned loud in my ears, yet clearly distinguishable from the sounds of night. Mothers hushing their babies upstairs, the quiet whimpering of a child, even rats in the basement scurrying to safety became loud thumps in my ears.

It was the first time I saw the three terrors, yet I didn’t have a doubt about who they were. You couldn’t mistake the dark executioner Lybra with a scales in one hand, and a blade in the other, or the creature to her left—a huge huffing shadow, steam curling out of its nostrils, its eyes red as fire.

A chill ran down my spine as the third creature stepped into the moonlight, right between the first two. There was no mistaking his identity, even though a hood obscured his face completely. He was bigger than Taurus, a black cloak flowing down from his broad shoulders, and he emitted so much power that all life seemed to be shrinking away from him. All he needed was a scythe, and I could have sworn I was looking at the bringer of death himself.

“Scavengers,” his ghostly whisper seeped into my head, while an icy mist coiled around  my body.

Thornan shifted behind me. He must have heard him, too, and so did Kovra. I knew, because I had a direct line to my twin’s feelings. Still, I also felt the voice was addressing me more than either of them. I felt spoken to. And the more I stared at the hooded figure standing between dark executioner and shifter, the more I felt his focus. Penetrating. Cutting into my mind like knife through butter.

“Get out of my head,” I pushed out through my teeth. My jaw clenched so hard that it hurt, making speaking difficult. Was it him, not wanting me to talk out loud? What the hell, was he taking control over my body?

“I could,” he hissed, sending ice rolling down my back. “But you wouldn’t want me to come over there, would you?” A low rumble followed, as if he enjoyed this.

“Please.” I reached out to grab the sides of the window’s wooden frame. “These people are innocent. They’ve done you no wrong. Let them be.”

“They’ve done me no wrong, it’s true. But you have wronged me, and so did your brothers.”

A feeling of doom settled in the pit of my stomach.

“Scavengers,” he continued, the icy mist around me infiltrating my senses. “You’ve been violating the Cursed Woods, stealing Scorpio treasure. Now, we want it back.”

I begged the Allmother for an idea, but my mind stayed stubbornly blank. This was a monster I was talking to, the most dangerous creature in the Cursed Woods. I had to be very careful with what I did next. The responsibility weighed heavy on my shoulders. I couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.

So, I did what I had never done before. For the first time, I accessed my magic, tapping into rusty instincts. My voice changed to a rippling soft tone, not entirely seductive, but getting there. The odds that my magic of seduction would work on the Scorpio Beast were close to zero anyway, but a deeper part of me was desperate enough to try.

“We can’t return the treasure, because we don’t have it anymore. It is spent. We don’t venture into the Cursed Woods for fun, you know. We do it because the Spades’ curse took Azoth Hollow in stride, and we can’t earn a living, so we have to buy one. The cursed treasure is how we’ve subsisted all of these years.”

A low growl like distant thunder made my skin pebble. When his spectral voice spoke in my head again, it chilled me.

“Well, then you’ll find that the Scorpio Beast isn’t beastly in all ways. I could let this slide, on the condition that you never come into the Cursed Woods again. That you never touch Scorpio treasure again.”

“You know that’s not a promise we can make. It’s the only way we can survive,” I pressed on, my fingers tightening on the window frame, the ridged wood starting to give way under my grip. “If you think about it, you owe this to us. We are all suffering under your curse, and we shouldn’t have to. We’re innocent.”

He burst into laughter. It was deep, controlled, but I could hear the repressed anger behind it, and it terrified me.

“Innocent,” the voice hissed in my head. “You mean we Scorpio fae deserved this?”

“I didn’t mean—”

“Save it, princess. I’m not here to discuss morals. You either give back the treasure, or pledge not to steal any more of it. Of course, since all good things are three, there is one other thing you could do to placate me.”

Rage tightened like a fist around my neck. He enjoyed torturing me with this. I wanted to scream at him that he was the most despicable creature, since he didn’t need the scraps of treasure we found in the woods, and everybody knew that, but I pressed my lips shut.

You could pay your village’s debt,” he said, clearly taking dark delight in this. “In fact, if you choose this third option, I give you my word that neither my siblings nor I will set foot Azoth Hollow as long as you’re in my power. And if you make yourself really useful, we might provide the village with the means necessary to survive this winter, and maybe all the winters that follow. I might even protect Azoth Hollow of the ghosts on full moon nights. What do you say?”

My mind went blank. What the fuck was happening here? Why would he want me of all people, of what possible use could I be to him?

“All you need to do, Vyper, is give yourself over to me, as tribute.” His voice darkened, and more blood drained from my face with every word he said. “Do that, and see your village spared. Even those that don’t deserve sparing. You know exactly who I’m talking about.”

I did, and it scared the hell out of me. Did this monster know my secrets?

“Why would you even want me?” Even inside my own head, my voice was barely more than a shaky whisper.

“Come to the Well of Sorrows tomorrow at midnight, and see your questions answered.”

The invisible fist of anxiety closed tighter around my neck.

No one who ever went to the Well of Sorrows ever came back. No one that ever gazed down at their own reflection in the water ever resisted the urge of throwing themselves in it. Word had it that a terrible sadness came out of the well, and it overwhelmed even the most mentally robust.

“What you ask of me is pure suicide,” I said.

“Relax. If I wanted you dead, we wouldn’t be talking right now.”

“Then what do you want with me?”

The dark hooded figure shimmered, and chilling fear went through the entire room behind me. This man was pure terror. Every creature in the Cursed Woods knew to fear him, scurrying to safety whenever they felt his presence close. The ghosts that had invaded the village streets at nightfall had stopped whispering, now barely more than a quiet presence out there, as wary of the dark triad facing me through the window as I was. People behind me crouched in silence, barely daring to breathe, while Kovra kept tense like an arrow ready to spring if I needed protection.

Not that he’d be able to protect me. If anything happened, he’d only end up losing his life. I couldn’t let it come to that.

“What do you want from me, Ares Amberson?” I pressed on in the velvety tone of a nymph, even though it only seemed to amuse Ares.

“All in good time, princess. The Well of Sorrows. Tomorrow at midnight.”

I squinted at him, trying to pierce the night and get a good look at his face under the hood. My half fae eyes were able to scrutinize the darkness, but he managed to keep himself shrouded in a veil of mystery.

He raised his head just a little, upping the static that prickled my skin. Brilliant green eyes like pure poison gleamed under his hood, emitting light that hinted at the sharp, dangerous edges of his face that seemed made of metal.

While his siblings began to draw back into the night, Ares lingered, as if he were still waiting. Something glinted behind him, a blade in the moonlight as a war cry ripped through the night. Time slowed down as the silvery light revealed the attacker’s face. My blood thumped in my ears as I screamed out his name. The sound of my own voice deafened me, wood splinters piercing my skin as my hands crushed the wooden window frame.

“Thornan, no!” tore out of my throat. Taken with the Scorpio Beast, I hadn’t noticed when my brother had slipped outside.

The ghosts must have cleared the streets in fear of Ares, and Thornan saw opportunity. He took one hell of a risk to do it, and for what? This was pure madness. Ares turned, and the veins in my neck swelled as I screamed out my brother’s name once more. Probably for the last time.

Thornan never stood a chance. My heart crumbled into pieces as I realized that my little brother was about to perish. Watching his face, much more rugged than a twenty-year-old’s should be, felt like a knife through my heart. The moment Ares raised his arm, his black garment falling back from a large hand that was obviously used to heavy weaponry and to easily twisting the necks of young men, I knew.

My little brother had sealed his own fate.

Thornan was a big brawny man, but compared to Ares he seemed almost feeble. Even in a simple fist fight, one blow from that large hand that seemed capable of cracking an anvil would have rendered my brother senseless. But it didn’t come to that. An army of scorpions emerged from under the Scorpio Beast’s sleeve, the sight of them enough to send shivers all over me. They jumped on Thornan, throwing him down and spreading out all over him like termites. He scrunched his face and bared his teeth, screaming and thrashing on the ground.

“No!” I cried. “Please!”

Ares turned, but all I could see was a poisonous green eye glowing from under his hood, his face obscured.

“Your brother, yesss?” he hissed in my head. “Hmmm. I think I’ll keep him. You know, as a token of your good faith,” he rumbled, cunning behind his words. “Make sure you don’t do anything foolish, like try lukewarm, brothel magic on me again.”

With that, Ares Amberson disappeared into the night fog beyond the moonlight, dragging my brother along with him, and leaving me only with the sound of my own blood thumping in my ears. I started to feel the pain in my palms from the splinters that had pierced my skin. Pain shot through my hands as I unimpaled them from the splintered wood. Then the room tilted, and the ground disappeared from under my feet.

“Vyper!” I heard my twin as if through water as he caught me. I grabbed his dependable arms, my eyes hanging desperately on his pale blue gaze, struggling to stay conscious, my palms leaving bloody traces on his mailed biceps.

“He’s got him, Kovra. He’s got Thornan.” My voice sounded hoarse, like I’d been screaming for hours. “He’s only twenty, this can’t be how his story ends. It just can’t, I can’t let it be. He was in love, you know? And he kept on loving him, even if he didn’t want Thornan back. All he ever knew was pain. We have to save him! We have to, I have to—” my voice trailed off, and everything went dark.

Enjoyed this? Let me know in a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Desired by the Fae Prince – Excerpt

Okay folks, so this month I intend to release two books. One of them is a fae novella, Desired by the Fae Prince, and the second one is the third installment of my dragon shifter series, Dragon Chronicles, a book titled The Dragon’s Game. While The Dragon’s Game might take until the beginning of February to hit the Zon, Desired by the Fae Prince is going to come out at the end of this coming week! Here is the opening excerpt. Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

***

Runar Hauldron is a fae prince in glimmering armor, but behind all that, he’s nothing but a monster. Yes, he’s a starlight fae, outrageously handsome, and he’s the ruler of this kingdom. And yes, he’s the one who made Fort Solar into what it is today, namely one of the most vibrant kingdoms in the realm. But he built all that on a pile of bodies.

Including the bodies of my family, and it probably won’t be long until I disappear down that deep black hole, too. Still, the ‘Why’ needs a bit of a backstory.

Perched on the highest mountain and overlooking the ocean, Fort Solar is one of those gems crisscrossed by winding streets that brim with magic, and bustle with business. There are stands overflowing with precious silks and gems along the roads, while special shops hold the rarest magic items. If you’re after something rare and valuable, you’re sure to find it here, which is why people travel to Fort Solar from all over the world.

The dark side to all of this abundance is that it’s procured by the blood and sweat of those like my family. Of metahumans, namely humans born with some magical abilities that we’d be better off without because all they’re doing for us is make us useful to oppressive royalty like Runar Hauldron. In Fort Solar, and all over the realm, really, we’re the lowest class. Only fit to be servants, and even slaves. No task is too low and no work too hard. Half of us die in the colonies, extracting magical gems and metals from the rock. Being traded among the rich and powerful is what happens on a good day. Surely it’s obvious there’s no breaking from that social class, no chance at higher education, no opportunities.

Which is why I am here now, at the old wine cellars that have been closed to the public for decades, meeting with the closest thing we metahumans have to a secret society. One that’s been built to break the social order, and bring down evil princes like Runar.

“We’re not nearly strong enough to strike now,” Cary blurts out—one of the prince’s servants, and my closest friend. He jumps up from his chair with wide eyes and a scared pale face. “It’s a handful of us, against one of the most powerful men in the realm!”

“It’s now or never, Cary,” the old sage replies. He’s the leader of our group and the person who made the proposition. When he speaks the rest of us hardly dare breathe, but this is a hard pill to swallow for all of us, which is why Cary grows hysterical.

“I work for the prince’s inner circle, I know what we’re up against,” he argues. “You can’t imagine the kind of security the man has around him at all times. And even if, by some absurd chance, anyone got close enough to assassinate him, he’s fucking Runar Hauldron! The slayer of the Great Unseelie King, he’s the man who defeated the Unseelie armies. Some say he’s the best swordsman in the entire realm, and I’ve seen him in close combat. Trust me, the guy is a weapon!”

“And yet we must find a way to kill him!” voices rise from the other side of the table.

“Before his dark mist kills every single metahuman outside his castle,” someone else chimes in desperately, murmurs of approval rising.

The old sage remains quiet.

“We don’t stand a chance,” Cary insists, exasperated. “Not like this. We need a plan, and we need someone strong to do it. It needs to be a supernatural, a powerful one, like him.”

“The boy is right,” a plump maid says, wringing her hands over her apron. “I work close circle, too. And we’re not ready to attempt an assassination, we might never be, not during our lifetimes. It’s just a handful of us, while there’s an entire world of them. I am fully committed to our cause but, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think any of us can do it. I don’t think we can do it even if we all attack as one, together. This kind of mission needs a few generations’ preparation.”

“And it needs military training, years of it,” another man puts in.

“Or a skilled, experienced mercenary,” another one cries from the back.

“I will do it,” I say.

All faces at the table turn toward me, surprise slapped onto them.

But the old sage doesn’t seem thrown off at all. He opens his mouth like a man with a vision, his white eyes seeming to stare at something compelling.

“The high spirits have spoken,” he muses. “It will be Sandra of the Ray.”

“What do you mean? She’s just a girl, an orphan you took under your roof. She doesn’t look like she can survive a storm, let alone the prince,” the man next to the maid says. I strain to remember his name. Oh yes, Goran Dukovnic. He and the maid—his wife—keep to themselves a lot. Her name is Lativia, if I remember correctly. Goran is a reserved guy who looks like a dependable handyman, complete with a square jaw, scruffy stubble, and a grey shirt with rolled-up sleeves that reveal strong forearms.

“You have to give us more than that, oh Wise One,” Lativia adds, giving me an appraising side-look. “Because the only idea that seems crazier than attempting assassination at this point is to send a child to do it, because that’s what she is, basically.”

“I stopped being a child the day that bastard took my family away from me,” I spit out through gritted teeth, reliving in my mind the dark mist seeping into our home and taking them away, cold and indifferent to my desperate screams. I kept trying to claw at it, but there was nothing I could grab onto, only black air. My knuckles show white as I tighten my fists on the table. “He made me an orphan! Prince Runar sent that mist, as he always does when he needs to feed the dark power that fuels him. I will stop him, or die trying.”

“Pace yourself, my child,” the old sage says in his raspy and yet soothing voice. “That you would offer yourself tonight was foretold by the high spirits. I was waiting for you to say the words. And now that you have, destiny is sealed. Still, it won’t be easy.”

“The high spirits spoke to you about this? They announced it should be me? Why didn’t you just tell me?”

“Because it had to come from you. What you did is a willing offering to the high spirits. Your intention sends precious scents towards the sky, like burning incense.”

“But why would the high spirits want it to be me?” I look up at the sky, holding up my palms. “I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. I’ve dreamt about this for many years, ever since—” Since the only people who ever loved me were sucked away by that dark mist as if they’d never existed, and I had to go live with my uncle. But I clench my jaw before the words leave my mouth. After all these years, I still can’t talk about it. My uncle was the best baker in Fort Solar, and a kind man, yet his wife was another story. She beat me daily, bruised me, her bestiality growing until she broke my ribs. Even then, she had me keep wiping the floor, while she kept kicking me.

That’s when I ran away, hunched over and holding to my side until I collapsed at the old sage’s door. He took me in, as he often took orphans. Still, he probably saw my arrival as sent by the high spirits, because he always treated me as if I was something special, even though I’m not.  I’m just a twenty-one year old wretch, without any special magical abilities except my relationship to plants. I can feel their roots, and their magical powers. Also, I’m not particularly pretty, despite Cary’s insistences on the contrary. I’m too skinny, with high cheekbones that used to look skeletal when the old sage first took me in, and small grey eyes. My hair is a heap of sand-colored hay, and my lips are thin because I made a habit of keeping them tight, giving my face a forever tense look. Still, that didn’t stop unwanted advances from men, especially when the old sage sent me to get herbs from the market or get water from the well. They’d never marry a wretch like me, but they’d sure fuck me on the edge of the well, or behind a market stand. Cary says they’re attracted to my vulnerability and femininity, but I think that’s bull. They’re attracted to how easy it is to prey on me and then dump me. The only man who ever truly cared about me that way is Cary. But no matter how badly I wish I could return his feelings, I just can’t.

Cary is also an orphan who grew up in the old sage’s house, and he’s the closest thing I have to a brother. We grew up as family. But then he started opening up to me about his true feelings since he got that job at the castle, arguing he’s got enough money now to feed another mouth, but I can’t do this to him. Not with the bitterness and anger that have been living inside me for ten years like coiling serpents.

“Who can say they can decipher the mind of the high spirits,” the old sage says. “There’s not a wise one in the world who can claim they’ve had more than mere glimpses of its divine essence. But those glimpses are priceless, and they reveal a whole world of meaning. They foretold it could only be you, my child. Only you can discover Prince Runar’s weak spot. And only you can bring him down.”

“What if he doesn’t have a weak spot?” the maid inquires. “I’ve been at the castle for a long time, and I didn’t discover any.”

“Neither have I,” Cary says.

“The high spirits have a plan, and it will be revealed to us as we go,” the old sage muses, his sightless white eyes directed at the sky, as if he were receiving answers from the high spirits as we speak. We can all feel his connection to the higher planes, to something divine and timeless that yet needs us, creatures made of flesh, to put its divine plans into action.

“We would be risking Sandra’s life,” Cary argues, shaking his head in refusal. “I can’t let that happen.”

“Then help me,” I reply, making eye contact, which gives him pause. I’ve been avoiding looking at him directly for weeks. “Help me get in. Help me get close to him. And when the time comes, help me end the bastard.”

***

Sandra

I can’t remember the last time I felt as light in my chest as I do now, emerging from the old wine cellars. I pull my hood over my head, making sure to stay inconspicuous as I round the corner into a side alley, and then weave my way through the crowded market. Right in the middle of it there’s a statue of the starlight prince that a secret society has just agreed—however reluctantly—that I’m going to kill.

I shield my eyes against the sun to stare up at a prince Runar made of gold and precious gems. The statue depicts him in motion on a mighty stallion, sword raised high above his head, his long golden hair blowing in the wind. His armor, encrusted with precious stones, is built specifically to showcase his athletic body which is, at least in this statuesque depiction, a fantastically beautiful thing. I scoff to myself. Pretty sure he doesn’t look like that in reality. I mean, he is fae and all, but this is fucking perfection, and I’m not buying it.

Needless to say I’ve never seen the fae prince up close. But in only a few days, Cary hooks me up with a job at his court. On Wednesday, I finally get to lay eyes on him.

The first sight is from afar, of course, since the castle is humungous, and filled with nobility and military all day long. There’s less activity at night, but the corridors are never empty. The prince is always surrounded by a bunch of generals and advisors, and he seems to be working a lot, from early morning until late at night. If he’s ever alone, one can’t know when and where, yet Cary says he often spends his nights in the castle library.

But the doors are never open, and I can’t roam the castle too much at night. I might get lost if I do anyway, not only because of the winding corridors, but because of all the magic this place is imbued with. Magic meant to protect and to kill. So I have to work my way closer and closer to the prince, which I finally succeed at a Friday dinner that he throws for his closest staff. Cary made sure that I got a serving slot here, and it wasn’t easy. When I finally approach enough to get a good look at the prince’s face, I freeze with the tray of starters in my hands.

In person, Runar Hauldron is even more majestic that the statue I saw of him days ago. He’s so large that that statue of him might as well have been real-size, even though I know that’s just an illusion. He’s big, yes, as all fae are, especially the warrior types, but the larger-than-life impression he makes is something that comes from the inside. His face is milky white, his features so beautiful he’s compelling to look at, and his blonde hair falls in flowing waves down to his waist. I never thought I’d find a pretty boy so attractive, but there’s an inherent masculinity about Runar despite his ethereal beauty. He’s not wearing his armor, but a white linen shirt that’s almost see-through, and that reveals contours of his powerfully built body. He sure looks like a prince descended from the stars, which is what starlight fae are. Compared to him, I’m a blade of grass with eyes.

“Close your mouth, your jaw dropped,” Cary says as he brushes by me. I stir from the enchantment of prince Runar and make eye contact with Cary long enough to catch the jealousy in his gaze. He walks away, placing a tray of steak and one of side-dishes on the table. I manage to make my way close to the prince so that I have to lean in and place my own tray on the table right next to him. My arm brushes over his in the process.

Current runs through me when it happens, sending a shudder all through my body. And when the prince’s ocean-blue gaze meets mine, I freeze in place. The world seems to tilt around me. Is this a special power of his, making humans feel dizzy in the head just from looking at him?

“How dare you touch the prince?” one of the men at his table reacts. The hostility of his voice tears me from the enthrallment of the prince’s gaze, and my head snaps to him in time to see one of the generals reach out and grab my wrist with the look of a mad dog on his face. “So typical of metahuman filth, to think you can rub yourself in the face of royalty just because you serve at their table.”

The fae general has already started to drag me towards the exit before I even realize what’s happening. My feet skid on the polished floor, making a squeaking sound, and my face heats up as the general’s grip tightens around  my neck. It’s like an iron vise, inescapable. It’s like I’ve been literally grabbed by a machine.  I claw at his hand, desperate to free my windpipes, but he’s too strong. The last thing I see before squeezed-out tears blur my vision is Cary’s stricken face as we pass him by. He’s unable to react because, I realize, this must all be happening too fast for him, but a voice as strong as thunder stops the general in his tracks.

“Harthuil, let her go!”

The man stops abruptly, but it’s seconds before he drops me. I hit the floor, coughing, not even trying to come up to my feet. I know it would be a futile attempt. I take my hand to my throat to make sure nothing is broken, since part of me wonders how come I’m still alive. There’s an exchange of lines around me, two men talking, the thundering voice giving orders, while the other accepts them meekly. It takes some time until enough oxygen finds its way back into my head so I can make any sense of it. When I do, I understand the kind of trouble I’m in, and my eyes pop out of my head.

***

Enjoyed this? Plenty more where it came from. Check out some of my other fae books here and here, so you have something you can binge until this one comes out. I love to hear from you. so leave me a comment and tell me how you liked this excerpt, and what you’d like to see in this new book. I always take your suggestions to heart.

Tell me your celebrity crush, and I’ll tell you who you are

Yes, another personality test it is! For this one I got inspired by the American Music Awards.

Here is today’s drill. Tell me which member of the famous k-pop group BTS is your bias (crush in k-pop language), and I’ll tell you who you are. So which one of the seven idols is your favorite? If you don’t know the group, it’s okay. Take a look at their faces, and try to silence your mind while you do so. Choose with your heart—or your gut. People’s faces tell us who they are, so there’s a high chance this will work even if you don’t know the band. Once you’ve made your choice, read the interpretations below.

  1. RM (Namjoon)

2. Suga (Yoongi)

3. Taehyung

4. Jimin

5. J-Hope (Hoseok)

6. Jin

7. Jungkook

Interpretations:

  1. You have a great particularity—you see the weakness in the powerful. You’re tough and methodical, but that wasn’t always the case. You were once vulnerable. You used to feel insecure, not necessarily about your looks, but about your inherent value. You don’t admit to this often, but you wish someone would get the weight of the world off your shoulders, at least for little while—you do carry a lot of responsibility around. You crave a partner that you can look up to. You’re not often enough on the receiving end of kindness, understanding, and nice gestures. You’re probably starved for affection. You may find yourself in an unfulfilling relationship at the moment. You may be in a situation right now where you’re taken for granted. You feel your partner doesn’t support or appreciate you enough. You crave structure, reliability and, if we are to get really down to the nitty gritty, an earthy kind of sexuality that grounds you. It’s probable that your love life has been a mess for a very long time, you’ve had to fend for yourself in more ways than one for too long, and you crave feeling secure.
  2. You may find pleasure in suffering. You’re touched by and attracted to things that seem to be created from sadness. You’re attracted to the introverted and the pained, to genius and intelligence. You may be attracted to people whose ego is tightly connected with their minds. Also, you are very probably attracted to people who are at peace with their darker side, because you’re not as comfortable with yours. You seek connection to the greater powers of the universe. You have a protective nature, and you most probably have a robust and strong physical constitution, too. You may be good at sports and outside activities. You’re capable of deep trust, love and dedication. Once committed, you’re capable of sacrificing yourself for the sake of your loved one. Don’t get this wrong, but you thrive in a toxic relationship, as long as you can breathe in it. Attracted to people who challenge you. Attracted to people who have been hurt. You may find bruises sexy.
  3. Okay, listen—you may have a thing about seeking approval. It probably took you a long time to feel comfortable in your own skin, if you ever even felt that way. You may still have trouble accepting your own face when you look in the mirror, even though you’re probably very attractive to other people. You’re attracted to glamorous and mysterious things. You’re very creative, and you may be a good writer. You have all sorts of scenarios about ideal lovers in your head. When you’re first attracted to a person, it’s probably the look in their eyes that calls to you first. You’re attracted to the Romeo and Juliette type of scenarios. You may be prone to judge your own value by the kind of person that is interested in you. You’re not just attracted to beauty and pretty faces, but faces that tell a story. You tend to show people that you care about them by doing things for them. You may be subconsciously attracted to people who treat you badly. Just so you know, there’s something dramatic about your inner world, and your soul, that is unique, and can be deeply captivating.
  4. You’re attracted to taboos and all things forbidden. You would blow the laws of society to smithereens. You crave a love that is all or nothing, an affair that will shatter your world. You may be prone to self-destructive behavior, and may even crave relationships that push you in that direction. No experience is worth living for you unless it’s so intense that it shakes you to your core, even if it tears you apart. You crave personal power—and probably have more of it than you believe. You may have sadomasochistic inclinations, even though you may not be fully aware of them. You yearn to dive deeply into the world of emotions, and explore the most hidden depths. You’re not waiting for an angel to save you, but for a demon to drag you down into the nooks and crannies of your own emotional body. To you, five minutes of true emotional exaltation are worth a year of agony. That kind of exaltation is a kind of high that no drug can create. You’re possessive, magnetic, and non-compromising. Tough, vindictive, and loyal to a fault.
  5. You’re energetic, sociable, physical. You don’t enjoy emotional turmoil, at least not for the sake of it. If there’s a crisis between you and your loved ones, by all means, you’re willing to work through it, but you won’t make a way of life out of it. You like sunshine, joy, optimism. You don’t believe in the depth of gloomy intellectualism. To you, true redemption, happiness and even true knowledge can only be found in the light. You’re more willing to help an optimistic person out of a rut, than someone who dwells in darkness and depression on a regular basis. Not only are those people lost causes to you, but you have little tolerance for what people do to themselves by clinging to the same old patters. Sometimes, suffering is a choice, that is your motto, and you have little patience for that kind of people. But if you’re convinced someone genuinely needs help, you’re the first person to be there. Heck, you’ll often make it before the paramedics do. You’re most probably someone who works hard, and plays hard, too.
  6. You’re humorous, witty, light hearted, full of soul. You’ve probably been through a whole lot of dark stuff in your life, and you’ve had it. No more toxic relationships for you, thank you. Been there, done that, seen the bottomless bottom of Tartarus and you don’t want to see it again. You like people with nuances and different facets—people like yourself. You are multi-layered, multi-faceted, and you see things in people that no one else does. You appreciate physical beauty,  but only when it speaks of the inner one. You read people’s personalities on their faces, and a pretty face without a pretty heart is nothing but an image empty of meaning to you. You may have been through stuff so dark that you still need healing. You have a very keen appreciation of music, of sound in general, and you will hear and appreciate things that other people don’t even perceive. You’re a very good judge of character.
  7. Deep down, you’re attracted to things dangerous, scary, draconic even. Yours is the dungeon kind of sensuality. You’re all about dungeons and dragons in your emotional life. You want things you shouldn’t want, and you take delight in it. You’re earthy, and very sensual. On a level you can’t explain, you feel a strong connection between love and death. The kind of darkness that you crave isn’t the ‘commercial’ type. It isn’t the easily bearable, Fifty Shades kind of darkness, rather the Psycho type. Emotionally, you go places where others fear to tread. You admire determination and effort. They are two of your core values., along with discipline and dedication, even though, on the outside, you may be very feminine and sweet. You enjoy taking care of your loved ones in a traditionally feminine way, which includes cooking and tending to their wounds, whether physical or emotional. You’re a caregiver, a ‘mother’, but one with dark inner complexities.

UPDATE Release Schedule

Here it is, folks, the release schedule starting August/September 2021. Things might change slightly here and there because I focus on the series you guys tell me would love to see continued, but I can guarantee this: It’s going to be an exciting year. Here are the series that I’m looking forward to most:

Beginning of September/Mid-September- Owned by the Cruel Prince (Book 5 in the Fae of Darkness Series)

End of October – Vampire Rockstar (Vampires Series)

November – Legends of the Fae Book 1 (NEW Series)

December – Legends of the Fae Book 2 (NEW Series)

December – Christmas fae story (novella in the universe of Fae of Darkness)

January 2022 – Legends of the Fae Book 3

February 2022 – Lucifer Rising (Dangerous Warlocks)

March 2022 – Dragon Chronicles Book 3

April 2022 – Legends of the Fae Book 4

May 2022 – Vampires Series Book 4

June 2022 – Vampires Series Book 5

Other surprise books may appear within this schedule or change it ever so slightly, so stay tuned! Plenty of surprises along the way.

P.S. REGARDING THE MAJOR ARCANA ACADEMY SERIES. I always listen to my readers regarding what they’d like to read next, and sadly the Major Arcana Academy has ranked lowest. Still, becuase I really hate leaving things unfinished, I WILL get around to it. It’s just the only series regarding which I can make no promises of a release date. Expect the last book in the Major Arcana series to appear somewhere along the schedule of 2022, I will be working on it on breaks and weekends. Cheers and love.

Owned by the Cruel Prince CHAPTER I

The time has come! Owned by the Cruel Prince is going to hit the Zon by the end of this month! It’s been a few good months since the title was supposed to come out, which is why I decided to share the first chapter here with you. You’ve waited enough, and I thank you so much for your patience! Okay, so here we go. Let me know what you think, I’m always glad to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Blurb:

Sandros

It’s true, what they say about me. I am half fae and half demon, which to the fae kind means that I have a predilection to evil. If they didn’t need me as desperately as they do now, they’d try to f*cking lynch me.

And they’d f*cking fail.

I’m a centuries-old warlord, I’m not easy to kill. I’ve been bred for war, and now that the Antichrist is ready to take over the world, I could destroy the fae, or I could save them. So I’m faced with a choice—join the devil, or fight against him.

A choice that would be easy to make if it weren’t for her—Edith Snowstorm.

My fated mate, and the woman who betrayed me.

I came to the human realm for her, determined to get her back.

For months I’d been fantasizing of subduing her again, of owning her, of doing to her the things she hates to love.

But I found her with another man.

Don’t f*cking ask how I resisted the urge of slitting him open right in front of her. But that would have been too little of a punishment for the two of them.

Edith opened Pandora’s box, and now she’s gonna pay for it.  I’ll enslave her, watch her fall apart under me, I’ll make her tremble with guilty pleasures, and hate herself for it. I’ll have her know the taste of sin, I’ll have her writhe for it, because I know this one thing—she might not love me, but she sure as hell wants me. She always has, and she’s not even trying to deny it.

So I might as well chain her to me for the time I have left, since chances are, the fires of hell are gonna consume my soul anyway. But there is also a small hope, that she might save it. And, along with my soul, the world.

CHAPTER I

Edith

Here we are again, Sandros Nightfrost and I. Right back where we started, with my puppy brown eyes raised to his beastly golden irises as we face each other across the table. He’s as heartbreakingly unattainable as he was years ago, when I was first placed “under his wing”. Or, better yet, in his power. After all, he was the “master” and I his servant, even if it was on a battlefield where we acted as one, telepathically bonded.

Things have changed since then. A lot.

Now I’m the lady of a French castle, the trophy wife of Lord Durion Mithriel for all the town’s high society is concerned. To them, I’m an ethereal blonde with waves of white-blonde hair cascading down her back, always designer dressed and a bit drunk. I play the part best with a glass of champagne in my hand at social functions. I never actually drink it, but no one ever notices. As long as it suits the image they’ve made of me, my true identity is safe.

The opulence of my dresses and jewelry is also necessary. The physical appearance of the fae is unusual for humans, and believe it or not, the best way to keep suspicion at bay is by flaunting it. People often refer to this effect as ‘surreal beauty,’ even though I personally don’t consider us more beautiful than humans. We’re just more like what they desire for themselves. So Durion and I freely display the luxury we live in, our expensive clothing, the cars, the chateau. This way, people just assume we ‘bought’ our looks too—good crèmes, the best pills, the right surgeons, some even consider bioengineering. I heard them whispering at the last function we attended.

We also have to display a relationship that doesn’t actually exist. Though we play the married couple, in the months Durion and I have been exiled here in the human realm I’ve come to loathe him. He treats me like his possession, and there’s always an undertone of menace in his communication toward me. But I have no choice but to put up with him, otherwise I know he’s got ways to hurt me.

Sandros doesn’t know all this, of course. He doesn’t know that the closeness between Durion and I is a ruse. He didn’t give me the opportunity to explain, neither the first time we saw each other at the mayor’s birthday party two days ago, nor during the two minutes we had to ourselves in this room before Durion stepped in, stiff and square-shouldered like a royal rooster with his full head of golden curls and his chest pumped forward. He’s come to take this charade of the two of us being a married couple of noblemen dangerously seriously and now, as we sit here across from Sandros, more so than ever.  The possibility of his sliding his hand under the table on my thigh hovers like a dark cloud over my head. It’s a possibility that Sandros feels, too.

Despite Sandros’ hostility towards me, our bond is still there. It’s an inescapable connection, one that he obviously hates being tangled in. He doesn’t love me, while I always have loved him, ever since the very beginning, even as he treated me like shit.

Because I’m an idiot like that.

This time Sandros doesn’t face us as the army general that everyone used to fear, the beast in studded leather armor that every woman at the winter court secretly wanted to fuck but would never dream of admitting it. No, this time he’s sitting across from us in a fitted suit that wraps his amazing body in a mouthwatering way, classy but also wild with his sharply chiseled face and long black hair. No wonder the plates clatter on the server girls’ trays as they scurry around with starters and drinks.

“So, you’re telling me that Nessima sent you here to speak to her benefactor on her behalf,” Durion says, his face filled with suspicion.  “I’m sorry, but I find that highly improbable.”

“And why is that?” Sandros rumbles, his voice like low, distant thunder.

“You stayed back at her estate as her prisoner. Two months later you emerge her right hand? I’m sorry, but it doesn’t make sense.”

“I found a way into her heart, and from thee, into her trust zone.”

I fidget in my seat. Bastard must know he just plunged a knife into my heart.

“We’re together now,” he twists the knife. “I’m sure that, if you think about it, it’ll make sense that she’d let me handle some of her more serious affairs.”

“As I am sure you understand my reservations. This isn’t some Shanghai CEO that she sent you to meet, it’s not Bill Gates or the President. It’s the fucking Antichrist.” Durion’s last word makes me flinch, which isn’t lost on Sandros. His golden eyes move between Durion and me as Durion places a hand over mine.

“It’s taken Nessima centuries to gain access to him,” Durion continues. “It seems unlikely to me that she should share that power, no matter how in love she is. Especially after what happened with her first husband.”

“Officially, Eldan Blackfall is still her husband.”

“So you and her can’t really be together?” Durion says. “And yet she’s given you more power than she ever even took for herself?”

“She actually asked me nicely to take it,” Sandros rumbles, his golden eyes glinting like honey and hellfire. “As a warrior, I have a reputation. She wanted that reputed skill and influence on her side.”

That sounds so true it cuts yet deeper.

My pulse rises to the point that I can’t breathe. It’s hard to put up with the tension between the two men, and even harder to withstand the waves of hostility that hit me from Sandros. I’m painfully focused on his presence, and I can’t shake it. Everything seems to fade around him, even this chateau with its paneled walls and luxury fittings. There’s no comfort in the expensively holstered chairs or the intricately carved ornaments of the great fireplace, not even in the intimate light of the candelabra, or the statues and expensive art surrounding us.

The flames from the fireplace cast a golden light on the sharp angles of Sandros’ face, licking his caramel-bronze skin. Maybe I’ve lived among humans for too long, and gotten so used to their appearances, that this fae warlord now seems as surreal to me as he does to them.  Even looking at him hurts.

“Suppose we believe you, Edith and I,” Durion tells him. “Say we accept that Nessima sent you here to act on her behalf. Did she give you his identity then? Because we’ve been here for months, and still haven’t got the slightest clue. It could be anyone from the town mayor to the baker.”

“Yes. I do know who it is.”

My breath stops, my eyes enlarging in shock.

“You do?” I whisper.

“Unfortunately I cannot share that information with you.” His gaze brushes unwillingly over to me. “Either one of you.”

A server enters, awkward on her feet, the china clattering on her tray. It must be Sandros’ handsomeness that’s gotten her all flustered, because it couldn’t be the topic of our conversation. We’re speaking winter fae language, which resembles human English, but she doesn’t understand that one very well either, and even if, she still couldn’t know what we’re talking about.

“I’m here because Nessima needs more of his support, and she thinks he would grant it to me easier than to her. There are things that I can offer him, and she can’t. Things are also becoming urgent because, ever since her husband Eldan came out of the coma, the King has been planning an invasion of the North, meant on crushing her forces. She will rely on her benefactor more than ever.”

“And may I ask how Eldan has been cleansed of the evil that kept him unconscious?” Durion pushes. “We all know that Nessima implanted it into him, and only she could get it out of his system.”

Sandros raises his square chin.

“I persuaded Nessima to retract it from him.”

Durion throws his head back, letting out a fake laugh. “Really now? And all that only through your talents as a lover?”

“I offered her my complete allegiance in return. My unwavering loyalty.”

“And she believed you?” I chime in, pressing the lid down on my boiling feelings.

Sandros stares at me out of those golden eyes, and it feels like a damned train crash.

“That’s where my talents as a lover came into play.”

And, with that, the knife tears deeper into my flesh.

It’s obvious that Sandros isn’t here only a mission, he’s also back to torture me. It seemed surreal that he should have turned on the King of Winter, his own half brother that he served for centuries upon centuries until this woman Nessima came along and screwed up our lives, but apparently it’s true. So true that the blood drains from my head.

How could he? How could he betray the king, and more yet, how could he betray me? We’re bonded mates, and that’s something almost impossible to break. But this bond must feel different for Sandros than it does for me, and if I’m completely honest with myself, deep down, I always knew. When he first took me in that storeroom under the stairs at Nessima’s estate, I knew I was doomed. I’ll always want this warlord, while he’ll always find reasons to despise me. As intense as our sex was, as deep our connection, it was about love to me, and about possession and power to him.

“Now here’s how things are going to go down,” Sandros says, broadening his shoulders. I’m a sucker for his powerful build, and he knows it. “I’m going to contact him, but that will have to be in a crowd, because a crowd is what best confers anonymity. So let’s start by making a list of upcoming events and, if there aren’t any, we’ll set up one ourselves.”

“Why would we help you?” I bite out, defiance balling behind my eyes. “You’re betraying your brother the King of Winter, and everyone you professed to care about by doing this. All this means we’re not on the same side anymore—doesn’t it, Durion?”

Durion blinks and babbles a little before he replies, “Why yes, yes, of course, yes.”

It must come as a shock to him that I’m putting us in the same boat, him and me, but he likes it, I can tell. It softens him toward me and the entire situation, which is good, because even though I loathe him, I need all the allies I can get right this moment, since I feel like I’m going to hell.

The hint of this new alliance isn’t lost on Sandros either, who assesses us for a few moments out of those golden eyes before a wicked grin quirks up his chiseled, forbidden-fruit of a mouth. He leans forward, slowly, placing his elbows on the table, seeming even bigger, his shadow growing over the curtains behind him in the firelight. Durion stiffens in his seat, his shoulders and jaw clenching as he tries to hang on to his resistant attitude.  

“The two of you make one hell of a pair,” Sandros slurs.

I don’t respond. Let’s see just how far Sandros’ rotten opinion of me can go.

“You will help me because you have no choice,” he eventually says, pushing his chair back. When he rises, he does it like a gliding python.

I watch him as he prowls over to the fireplace. The sleek suit doesn’t do anything to mask his feral nature, on the contrary, it works as an enhancement. He picks a red rose from a gilded holder on the mantelpiece, pushing his free hand into his pocket. The suit tightens on his arm, sending a flash of memory involving those arms around me, subduing me.

I shake my head to cast out the memory that threatens to spread through me like a disease.

“These look like they are more than just decoration.” His voice is as controlled as ever, but I can feel the veiled irritation behind it. I hold back from probing his mind telepathically, because he would feel me there, and I’m not sure I want to know the full extent of his resentment. “Are red roses a regular gift in this place?”

“I’ve spared no effort to make Edith’s exile in the human realm as pleasant as possible.”

“Oh, but being in the human realm has hardly ever been torture for her,” Sandros rumbles, his tone lashing. “Let me remind you her illegally crossing over into the human realm and screwing human boys was the reason she got thrown in the Ice King’s dungeon in the first place.”

“Come on, Sandros, that was ages ago,” I bust out. “I’ve paid for my mistakes, I was locked down for years, and then I served you in the war against the Lord of Fire. Sure, the stigma never went away, it might never go, but I won’t have you judging me, not anymore.”

Durion places a long-fingered hand on my shoulder, and this time I don’t shake it off. Two servers enter with the last of the tableware and make to take positions by the door, standing in expectation to wait on us, but Sandros has other plans.

“Thank you very much for everything,” he tells them in a deep voice that makes the blood surge into the women’s cheeks. They’re so affected by him their thoughts are senseless clamor in my ears. “You can leave now. Take the night off. Actually, take tomorrow too. Tell the rest of the staff, it’s three free days for everybody.”

The two women look at each other, and then at Durion and me. I can feel his thoughts, he’s furious that Sandros should take upon himself to give our staff orders, but he knows that clearing the chateau of personnel is the right thing to do. The safe thing to do. We nod at the women, and watch them reluctantly leave. Their thoughts still echo inside my skull, and I can make out some sense in them—they’d love to stay, find out more about the mysterious visitor. One of them particularly likes having his eyes on her, it stimulates her sexual fantasy in which he’s forcing her down to her knees, fist clenched in her hair. She wonders if he’s married, but doesn’t seem to care even if that’s the case.

“I quit judging you a long time ago, Edith,” Sandros addresses me as soon as the servers have cleared the room. “I think by now we know each other well enough to know what to expect.”

“Believe it or not, I would very much prefer to return to the Winter Realm,” I say. “To the Queen, who I’m honored to call my best friend, and to the King, who happens to be your half-brother.” I stick out my chin. “I guess I don’t know you as well as you assume. I would have never expected you to switch sides. To cross to Nessima Blackfall’s side, no less, who tried to kill your best friend Eldan in punishment for having found the love of his life in a man instead of her. You’ve turned your back on all the centuries that you and the King have fought side by side? And for what? Pussy?” I scoff.

It’s satisfying to hold the words on my tongue like that. He sure didn’t expect that kind of reaction from me, and on the one hand it felt hood. But on the other it feels like I’ve just drunk poison because I’m putting things into a perspective that’s hard as Tartarus to bear. But since he’s determined to think the worst of me, I might as well return in kind.

Yes, years ago I found a way to slip into the human realm and have fun at frat parties. I had my first lover there, but I wasn’t doing it with ‘boys’. It was only one boy, and Sandros knows that. When we connected, current running through us, creating the mates’ bond, he saw the guy with the number eight on the back of his jacket.

“I’m not here to explain my motives to you.” His tone is flat as if my words had bounced against a wall. “I’m here to let you know how things are going to go down. So—”

“We don’t need to make a list of events,” I cut him off. “There’s enough high society in this town that there’s always something going on. There was the mayor’s birthday two days ago, and there’s the engagement of Count Guerin’s son on Saturday. He’s celebrating at the same restaurant as the mayor—the medieval tower on the hill, the best place in all the region.”

“Not going to have every person in town there, though,” Durion argues. “It’s only going to be the high society, so the person you expect to meet there—”

“The high society is all we need,” Sandros declares.

“So then we know the Antichrist is a member,” Durion says under his breath.

“Not surprised.” I pick up the bottle of champagne and pour myself a drink, refusing Durion’s attempt of helping with one forbidding look that he doesn’t challenge. He hasn’t seen this side of me before, and that takes him a little off balance. Quite frankly, I don’t know myself like this either. “Who would imagine the devil’s very son wandering the world in a state of poverty or even merely as someone mediocrely well-off?”

“The Antichrist came here to enjoy the good life, that’s for sure,” Sandros says. I feel his eyes on me as I keep pouring champagne into my glass. I do it slowly, watching the liquid glisten and the foam swell, tilting the glass to prolog the process.

“Who’s on the guest list?” Sandros goes on.

I leave the replying to Durion, downing my champagne and letting my eyes wander over Sandros’ frame.

Will I ever be free from his spell, or am I doomed to die under it, like all the other disposable women that came before me in his life? When Sandros Nightfrost chooses to unleash his masculine talents on a woman, it’s not long until she becomes his emotional slave, just like I’ve become. No doubt in the months we’ve been apart he’s made an adoring idiot out of Nessima. By Tartarus, I wish that the champagne could give me the slightest high, I’m in desperate need of it. But nothing but a particular kind of fae nectar is going to do that trick.

 “Listen, Sandros,” I interrupt. “Any chance you brought along some nectar?”

He cocks an eyebrow inquisitively.

“It was the last of my concerns, but I’m sure I can arrange something for you, if you work with me now. Let’s get back to our business at hand, and talk contraband later.”

So the bastard’s going to make me work for it.

“All right, so the engagement party,” Durion resumes, probably deciding it’s better not to antagonize the warlord any further. Everything about him screams we better not try to stand in his way, or things are going to get ugly.

But I’ll be damned. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Sandros is here to betray his brother the King of Frost after so many centuries in which they’d been so close one could have sworn they were Siamese. I can’t believe he’s aiding Nessima and the Antichrist in taking over the Winter Realm.

Durion pushes his chair back, the wooden legs scraping the floor, and walks around the table to Sandros, who watches him with hawkish eyes.

“There are a few people of note in this town, and they like to be around each other, you know, they feel safer that way. The rich don’t despise the poor as much as they fear they would feast on the crumbs from their tables.”

“I didn’t come here for philosophy,” Sandros cuts him off, but Durion doesn’t seem bothered by the humuliation. I scoff under my breath.  Now that it’s become clear where the real power lies, he’s sucking up to it again. I’ve tried hard not to despise him, but look at him now.

“The mayor isn’t the most important person in this place,” he continues, picking up an oyster and slurping on it, while Sandros leans with his shoulder against the fireplace, the flames dancing in his golden eyes.

“Guerin the Count de Auvergne is the oldest and most respected citizen here. A number of mayors showered him with distinctions over the years. From what I gather he played a huge part against Hitler, but he’s too old now to play a part in anything remotely challenging. He’s extremely well connected though, and he’s trying hard to pass his connections on to his son, Antoine. Except skill and life experience isn’t passed on as easily as money, and Antoine’s turning out a good-for-nothing that’s squandering his father’s inheritance before the old man’s even in the ground isn’t making it any easier. He’s a drunk, an addict, and a womanizer.

“Guerin has started to see that Antoine has anything but a bright future ahead of him once the old man’s dead, so he’s trying to save the situation through an arranged marriage. The engagement party between Antoine de Auvergne and Simone Carrera is thus based on anything but love. She’s not a noblewoman, but she’s rich, an heiress. Used to be a great beauty, and she’s still attractive, by human standards, even though she’s got her best years behind her. So she could still have her choice of men, easily, so old Guerin has to make the union interesting for her, and especially, profitable. They must have struck a good deal. She’s very savvy in the business area, I’ve heard.”

Has the champagne started to have an effect, or is Sandros glancing at me every other sentence?

“So these three will be the main people at the engagement party on Saturday, but there will also be the mayor, Jean Dubois. He’s a cliché-ish middle aged politician pervert that won’t miss a chance to hover around Giancarlo Botini, a fashion designer who’s not entirely cliché.” He glances at me with hidden meaning. “He’s extravagant, dark sunglasses at midnight and such, but he’s as into women as it gets. Most of all into Edith.”

Sandros’ eyes fly over to me, the complete mirror of Durion’s, except there’s also some sort of reproach in there, as if I’m to blame for the attention.

“Come on Durion, what he wants is for me to model for him,” I counter, even though I hate it that I want to set Sandros’ opinion straight. “To him, I’m the stereotypical trophy wife with an alcohol problem and good legs. He just thinks I’d look good on a catwalk.”

“Which you most certainly would,” Durion says. “But the truth is, Sandros, it’s not only the pretty trophy wife that Botini sees. As a fae, I have no doubt Edith is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. Unless, of course, he is the Antichrist, and he’s seen this kind of supernatural beauty before.”

Sandros walks around him as if he’s heard everything he needed to hear. “So all these people are going to be at the engagement party.”

“Them and more.” Durion spins on his heel to face Sandros’ back as the latter takes distance. “The mayor’s connections, high-flying politicians and corporatists, also the more important part of his extended family will be there. The mayor also has two sons from a surrogate mother, but I suppose they’re irrelevant.”

“Now why would you suppose that?”

“What do you mean why? They’re toddlers. Twins.”

Pretty weird looking twins, if you ask me, but I could still kiss and pinch those doughy cheeks. They’re chubby, and sweet, and yet I can understand people’s reluctance to go anywhere near them. They have disturbingly wiry copper hair and uncomfortably piercing blue eyes that would make the night unsettling for the most settled of minds. Human minds. Not used to facing demons and dragon shifters in battle, oblivious to the incredible worlds existing around their own.

“It’s decided, then,” Sandros states matter-of-factly, placing the rose slowly on the table right across from me. “We’ll be attending that engagement party on Saturday, and you will be introducing me as your distant cousin.”

Our eyes meet, and his eyes nail me to the chair. Durion can’t catch the look between us, since Sandros is with his back at him, and I manage to suppress any reaction that threatens to move a muscle on my face.

“And by what name should I introduce you?” Durion says. “Because I can’t possibly use your real one. These are generations’ old noblemen and politicians and corporate moguls, they’ll know—”

“They’ll know I’m someone they’ve never heard of, and yet someone with enough power to infiltrate their ranks. Someone that looks different enough to raise their curiosity. When these things awaken curiosity, respect tends to follow. It will open all the doors that need to be opened.”

Silence falls over the room, only the fire’s rustling filling the air, the flames bathing the place in a timeless light. I like it because it reminds me of my old world, of my true home in the Winter Realm. The Snowstorm estate, the abandoned fortress of my family. It’s now probably infested with Nessima’s dark power, since her evil has gaped to swallow the entire territory beyond the Northern forest.

“I’ll be staying in the east wing. Tell the staff not to venture there. I understand it’s still undergoing renovation anyway,” Sandros declares, turning to leave.

“The renovations have only just started,” Durion corrects him. “It’s actually in a pretty bad state right now, it’s hardly a proper lodging for—”

“I’ve had worse. I spent half of my life in war camps. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

“Can’t say the betrayal wasn’t expected,” Durion says when we’re alone again, his eyes still fixed on the archway through which Sandros has just exited. He pours himself a glass of champagne, and downs it in one go. Alcohol doesn’t have an effect on either of us, but the prickling, fine taste of French booze can be soothing. “You should have known, too. He’s the son of the former winter king and a powerful demoness from Hell. Evil has always coursed through his veins, that’s why our people have always been instinctively wary of him.”

“You’re right.”

For a moment, Durion looks like he’s about to slap himself. “Wait, you actually agree with me for once? What’s the catch?”

“No catch. It’s the way it is. Pour me some, too.” I wave my hand to the bottle, slouching back in my seat. I must look like a heart-broken mess. My dress is off the shoulder, which I guess adds to my overall desolate appearance as I let a man I loathe fill my glass instead of the one I want, who left the room without giving me another glance.  I keep staring at the rose he placed in front of me, which has already started to wilt, as blackening under his dark power.

“I don’t think you’ve ever agreed with me on anything before,” Durion says as the champagne gurgles into the glass.

“I’d be an idiot to not agree with you on this one. But agreeing isn’t going to get us anywhere.” I meet Durion’s eyes as I re-run the evening in my head. “The realms are in mortal danger again. The Antichrist is here, in the human world, the centerpiece that holds all the worlds together. And now, the darkest prince of the Winter Realm has joined him. If these two come together, the worlds are going to collapse, and evil is going to swallow us all.”

Durion nods, dread starting to spread in his large brown eyes. “We have to do something.”

“First of all, we have to find out who the Antichrist is.”

***

UPDATE Release Schedule – The next book in your favorite series

The Summer of 2020 has been unconventional to say the least, which has given many of us authors time to write more, and organize and re-organize our schedules in new ways. At a certain point I had more books scheduled for this year than I could actually write, I mean write like I mean it, immersing myself in the books’ worlds properly. So, without further ado, this is the new schedule my awesome editor Tami and I came up with. Acquiring covers we fell in love with at first sight may or may not have had to do with our planning new stories *wink*. Anyways, some of these titles are already backed up with pre-orders, and there’s a link to them wherever that’s the case. We will go adding links as we add more pre-orders. So here we go 🙂

(Fae Romance, Vampires and Shifters by Ana Calin)

Prince Michael the Bad (Book 7 of the Dracula’s Bloodline series) – 24th of August

Wicked King (Book 3 of the Fae of Fire and Ash series) – 24th of September

Vicious Fae (Book 2 of the Hiddeen World series) – 22nd of October

In Sin with the Wolf (Book 4 of the Magnificent Beasts series) – 24th of November

The Dragon Lord’s Fated Mate (Book 1 of the Dragon Chronicles series) – 22nd of December

the NEXT BOOK IN THE MAJOR ARCANA ACADEMY SERIES WILL BE RELEASED LATER IN 2021

Dragon’s Prisoner (Book 2 of the Deagon Chronicles series)24th of Feburary 2021

The Devil’s Son (Book 8 of the Dracula’s Bloodline series) 05th of March 2021

The schedule for March – December 2021 follows.

But until then there’s so much more that’s available for you right now. Check out all the available books and series here.

Release Schedule – This is when the next book in your favorite series is being released

These past few days have been wonderfully busy. I have been working on a new fae romance (I’m obsessed with all things fae/elven lately), but I’ve also been working on the next books in my ongoing series. So this is my new release schedule, with the release dates for the next book in each of my paranormal romance series, including the bestselling ones 🙂

***

May 14thThe Darkest Fae (new standalone, prequel to the Fae of Darkness series)

May 28thDark Desires (Book Two in the Dangerous Warlocks series)

June 2020 (June 22nd)King of Flames (Book One in the Fae of Fire and Ash series)

July 2020 (July 21st)Kingdom of Fire (Book Two of the Fae of Fire and Ash series)

August 2020 (August 20th)Prince Michael the Bad (last book of the Dracula’s Bloodline series)

September 2020 (Date follows)In Sin with the Wolf (Book Four of the Magnificent Beasts series)

October 2020 (Date follows)Fall of the Red Veil (last book of the Major Arcana Academy series – reverse harem)

November 2020 (Date follows)Title follows (Book Three of the Fae of Fire and Ash series)

December 2020SURPRISE Christmas Pranormal Romance 

And this isn’t even all. I have three other novellas scheduled for this year , which will be sprinkled among these official releases, so stay tuned for more surprieses. Thank you for all your love and support, for keeping me so inspired and motivated! It means the world!

Tell me your story, and I’ll tell you who you are – personality test

Tell me your Story, and I’ll tell you who you are. Looking forward to see what you get! As always, please take a look at the book descriptions below – at first there is no cover, no title, only the description of the book. You’ll discover title and cover at the end of the post, after you’ve gotten your interpretation.

Which of the stories described below do you feel resonates with you best? The titles will be revealed at the end, along with the interpretation of your choice – what it says about your hidden personality. Make sure you read the descriptions and make your choice before you scroll down to the interpretations, titles and covers. Enjoy!

  1. The Moonstone, a yellow diamond looted from an Indian temple and believed to bring bad luck to its owner, is bequeathed to Rachel Verinder on her eighteenth birthday. That very night the priceless stone is stolen again and when Sergeant Cuff is brought in to investigate the crime, he soon realizes that no one in Rachel’s household is above suspicion.
  2. A scientist creates a life, and is later horrified by what he has created. The tale begins with letters from Captain Walton as he journeys Northward to undiscovered lands. There, in the frozen wastelands of the North, Walton encounters scientist Victor and hears the strange sequence of events that lead the poor scientist doctor to those remote reaches of the earth. The Doctor’s tale is strange indeed, and explores the limitations of human knowledge while showing, through the fact that he’d created a monster, the way in which evil is created and how knowledge we’re unprepared for can destroy us.
  3. When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. But will they be able to resist each other until the end?
  4. A journalist rewrites history to satisfy the demands of the Ministry of Truth. With each lie he writes, the journalist grows to hate the Party that seeks power for its own sake and persecutes those who dare to commit thought crimes. But as he starts to think for himself the journalist can’t escape the fact that Big Brother is always watching. . .
  5. Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.

Interpretations:

  1. Your mind is healthy, sharp, but you also possess the depth of the philosopher. A problem-solver while also a lover of good wine, so to say, you have a well-balanced take and outlook on life. Unbalancing you is hard to achieve, but you must be wary of the cunning.
  2. You have been plagued by a feeling of inadequacy. Often seeing yourself as an anomaly, often baffled by what you discover in your own depths, you have come to often fear yourself. You may feel you lack control over your inner life and even your actions. Fascinating, compelling, and emotionally dangerous.
  3. You need a positive outlook on life. While you’re sociable, a laugher, a strong shoulder and a rock of stability in the middle of the ocean, you’re not as unshakable as you seem. Positivity is as much a need of yours as it is your quality. You have wonderful energy, but you must beware of energy vampires. You’re a romantic and an idealist.
  4. You like to be well-informed, you gather the facts, and then you manufacture theories. You trust your sixth sense and your judgment because they’re based on true knowledge. Your keen gaze often penetrates the façade, and you might even have quite a temper. You may be feared and respected, but you must beware of powerful enemies.
  5. You’re an idealist to the marrow, a lover and a fighter and free spirit. You have a beautiful mind that begs to be discovered. People probably navigate to you because you are a “pleasant” person. You have modesty and intelligence. Beware, you might sometimes feel average and “invisible”.

Aaaand, time for revelations:

Title 1 – Your book is “The Moonstone” by Wilkie Collins

TheMoonstone

Title 2 – Your book is “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

FrankensteinCover

Title 3 – Your book is “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

PrideAndPrejudice

Title 4 – Your book is “1984” by George Orwell

1984 Cover

Title 5 – Your book is “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexandre Dumas

TheCountOfMonteCristoCover

Enjoyed this? Plenty more where it came from. Check out the Personality Tests section on this site or scroll down to older posts to discover tens of personality tests and psychology hot facts. Subscribe to this blog to receive notification by e-mail every time a new post is uploaded, and stay close on Facebook and Twitter for loads more! I’m always ecstatic to hear from you. If you’re comfortable, leave a comment with your choice and result, I’m cat-curious what you got.

Pic source.

NEW personality test of the series What’s Your Calling

The time has come for a new quiz of the series What is Your Calling! This is a very subtle one, so try to go deep into yourself when making your choice. Still, try not to take more than 30 seconds in order to ensure that you stay true to your inner self. Don’t let anything and anyone influence you.

Which of the following activities do you most enjoy doing with your hands?

  1. Typing/writing with pens, etc.
  2. Knitting/pottering
  3. Painting
  4. Making knives; anything to do with metal.
  5. Cooking

Interpretations:

  1. You’re an intellectual; your mind is your sharpest weapon and it’s what can best serve your fellow humans. That unique something you can offer the world is of intellectual nature.
  2. You’re a creature of crafts; reliable and grounded, you’re useful to society in basic, indispensable ways. That unique something you can offer the world is related to the basis of all professions – crafts.
  3. You’re an artist at heart, but you can also blend the arts with crafts. You’re the decorator, the home-maker, the visionary, the one who can help others build a perfect home and a perfect family. You inspire people. You may challenge tradition.
  4. You’re a warrior, a defender or an attacker, depending on your cause. You’re dangerous and devious. The unique something you can offer the world is martial in nature, for defense or attack.
  5. You’re a nurturing soul. You’re the world’s healer, the doctor, the therapist, the kind heart, the accommodator, sometimes the mentalist. You may have certain inclinations to the occult.

Enjoyed this? Check out the Personality Tests section of this side and Older Posts at the bottom of the home page for many more tests and psych discussions. Stay tuned for a new quiz on Monday and more of this series and the series What Kind of Lover are You by Christmas.

For more, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I’d love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts and feelings in a comment and, if you like, especially your chosen answer to this quiz. You know I’m always super curious : )