Prince of Midnight – Chapter II (Book 1 of the Dark and Dangerous Series)

As promised, here’s more of my new paranormal romance with sci-fi icing, folks.

So what’s the story about?

Reporter Juliet Jochs travels to the Carpathians. Her job—investigating a mysterious and unnaturally beautiful Carpathian prince. Pretending to work a public profile for him, she actually wants to uncover his shady dealings and later expose them in the international press. If the prince discovers Juliet’s hidden agenda, she knows it may cost her life. But as she finds herself trapped in his fortress and his masks begin to peel off, she fears she may lose her sanity.

Prince Radek Matthayus has dark powers that suck Juliet into a whirl of hypnotic desire. He attracts her from the shadow, but he never seems to put his body on hers. She comes to crave his touch more than air, falling under his spell like in a dark dungeon. She must keep her head above the water if she is to save herself, run away and not look back. But can she resist opening the last door to his most terrible secret?

 

Read chapter I here.

CHAPTER II

Juliet

 

Two days later, Herald invites me into his office. I’m nervous as I close the door behind me, ruffling the curls that make a yellow halo around my head. I cross my legs awkwardly on the chair, pulling at the rim of my skirt to cover my knees—I wouldn’t want him to think that I’m trying to seduce him in some cheap way, right?

“One moment, Juliet.” He holds up a finger without looking up from the paper he’s reviewing with a frown before signing. It takes a while until he acknowledges me again. This might seem condescending to others, but look at it this way: Herald Gruff is the boss at a highly reputable magazine, one could go deaf on the bustling in the cubicles room just outside his office alone. That’s a lot of responsibility, not to mention it requires a fuckload of authority, sure he seems an asshole.

“So,” he says, pulling out a drawer and pushing a file under my nose. “Because technology isn’t to be trusted nowadays, I’ll approach this sensitive subject in paper form.”

I glance from the file to him, trying to process “don’t trust technology” and “approach subject in paper form.”

“But our work is entirely technology-based. We’re an e-zine, we don’t even sell printed issues. Actually, we loathe all things ‘printed’, don’t we?”

“Just open it,” he prompts, his greying hair quivering at the sudden jerk of his hand towards the file. He’s a bit older than me—okay, a whole chunk older—but he’s got a good body, since he swims daily, and intelligent if not pretty eyes. There’s something of a skinny bulldog to his face, but he was once obviously attractive. Not that it matters. Nothing is more attractive than a man who exudes self-control, power and authority.

As I leaf through the file, he says, “Radek Matthayus, the prince you picked on a few days ago at the press conference.”

“This isn’t much more than what I’ve covered on him,” I note as I go through the file rapidly. “It doesn’t say a whole lot, either, the guy is very private about everything.”

Herald leans back, pushing his hands through his ashen hair. It’s good to see him a little relaxed.

“I believe this guy is blocking foreign investment in infrastructure in his country from the shadow. He’s influential enough to do that and more. I want you to discover his reasons and then help me expose them.”

I blink at him like an idiot. This opportunity isn’t only huge, it’s a career-making turning point. A you-almost-got-me smile stretches on my face, while I wave a finger at him.

“Come on, what’s the catch?”

He looks at me sternly. “Catch?”

“You’re not offering me this job just like this, are you? I mean, this is huge, and probably for someone with far more experience. Why me?”

There’s a pause and steady eye contact before Herald replies. “Because you’re the only person the dark prince has shown interest in in a very long time.”

There’s a zinging in my ears, and my stomach twists. Shown interest. This feels surreal.

“What did you just say?” I whisper.

“We don’t have time for stupid dialogue, Juliet, I’m sure you heard me the first time.” Herald points to the file like an unhappy teacher at sloppy homework. “Everything here is merely a tenth of what we need to discover about this dark prince.” He leans in, gaze pointed like a gun to the center of my forehead. “Read it, and you’ll understand why I say ‘dark.’”

“But, Herald.” My voice cracks on his name, and I clear my throat. “In wha, er, in what way did he show interest in me?”

He smirks, giving me a once over. “I was surprised at first, too.” He leans back in his chair, more relaxed this way, motioning with a hand towards me from head to toe. “I mean, it’s not like you’re not cute and all, but compared to the kind of women who must surround him….” He purses his lips and whistles, waving his hand like he just touched something hot—which he obviously doesn’t consider me to be. It’s as if he’d forgotten all about the night two weeks ago, the office party, when he crammed me in a corner of this very office and kissed me, confessing under his breath that he secretly wanted me.

I still vividly remember his eager tongue, tasting of vinegar from the wine he’d been drinking. Even though I wanted him, I wanted him sober, smelling and tasting nicely. I felt his desire rock hard pressing urgently against my mound, and pushed him away on an impulse, saying, “Not like this.”

“You have nice natural blond hair, curly and all, but face it—it’s too short, barely even reaching your shoulders, it’s a mess on top of your head. With your pale eyebrows and eyelashes and snow-white skin, you look like a pretty corpse,” Herald continues cruelly, analyzing me with sharp eyes. “You could use some contrast, like dye your hair and your eyebrows or something.”

Jesus, what comes next, pump up your lips, get a nose job—God knows I could use one? I push myself off the chair, swiping the file off his table.

“Why are you doing this, Herald?” I demand, pacing slowly around and pretending to leaf through the file. It’s easier for me to stand up for myself when I’m not looking at him, he’s too intimidating and easily angered. “Is it because I ran out of here two weeks ago? Because, if that’s the case, you could make a move on me now, sober, and I wouldn’t say no.” I glance at him. He’s smirking, dark eyes glinting at me from under ashen eyebrows, the corners of his mouth pushing his cheeks aside into a wrinkly smile that speaks of experience, resilience and authority.

“Get this job done properly, and you’ll have that and more, Juliet.”

My heart gives me a pang of outrage. Is he offering himself as a prize? No offense, I might not be the prettiest, or the smartest, but I am like a lifetime younger… Then I want to slap myself. How can I be so conceited? He’s far more valuable than me in so many ways. If I can prove myself to him, then I might assume some of all that value for myself. I raise my chin, closing the file and holding it against my chest. I’m looking at him from higher ground, since I’m standing up, feeling grand, even if for only a moment.

“You can rely on me for this job.”

“I hope you appreciate that I trust you with it, considering your lack of experience and your young age overall. You are only twenty-two, in the end.”

I squint at him. “There’s a reason why you trust me with it, which reminds me. In what way has the prince shown interest?”

Herald purses his lips, pondering before he answers. “His people called the e-zine to inquire about you. They wanted to hire you, and offered to purchase you from us if it must be. I figured his interest must be serious, since he can have anyone he wants, you know.”

My ears start buzzing.

“Purchase,” I repeat quietly. “But what could he possibly use me for?”

“You’ll find out.” He gets up from his chair, pacing to me. I barely register the time lapsing until he reaches me, placing a hand on my shoulder. I tilt a bit under it. Looking straight into my eyes, he says, “I agreed, Juliet. I agreed to trade you, but I have my own agenda.”

“You traded me like I’m a thing?”

“No. I traded you like you’re Ronaldo.”

I have this overwhelming urge of hurting him. As I begin to realize what’s happening here, rage heats up my face. “How can you be sure I won’t betray your agenda to the prince?”

He smiles, which makes his cheeks look like a wrinkly bulldog’s again. “I’m sure, because the prince can’t offer you what I can. You see, while he can pay a thousand times better, his headquarters is deep in some obscure, impossible to penetrate mountain forest. Money won’t be of much use there, not to mention that the social environment… Well, I imagine it’s not what your half German half American upbringing has taught you to strive for and adjust to. I, on the other hand, offer you money and position when you’re back here in Berlin.” He brings his face closer to mine to look even deeper into my eyes, and I realize I’m pushed against the wall, clutching the file as the only shield between me and the intimidating power house that’s Herald Gruff. “Because I will have you back. And when that happens, with what you gather on the prince, we’ll go huge. You’ll have fame in the entire national press, all doors will be open for you, and you’ll be made editor-in-chief immediately.” He shrugs, taking distance and letting his hand drop off my shoulder. “Many will offer you career choices, though. If you’ll want to go for a position at one of the 5 best journals in the country, you’ll be free to do so. We can set that in stone through contract right now, if you like.”

I must admit, career advancement baits me. It makes me salivate. When I’m alone I fantasize about power—me in a black Armani suit to starkly contrast with my blond hair, pale face and pale eyes, looking striking if not attractive to whoever walks into my sky rise office.

Soon I’ve signed two contracts—one that transfers me to the prince’s company, and one stating my liberty of choice when I’m back with Herald. The job description I have with the prince’s firm is still drawn in general lines, but it includes my writing reports on what he intends to do with the real estate he keeps acquiring all over Europe, and about the work he does back home. Pretty much creating a better defined public persona that he can then display for himself outside his country of origin.

***

The whole contract thing has kept me at the office for two straight days. Been going through papers all night and all of today with Herald and the company lawyer. The train now lulls me to sleep with its swaying as it takes me to the periphery of Berlin, where I’ve lived with my sister Runia since the pictures business—told myself all those reasonable things about the hacker and all, but I still can’t be alone at night.

Runia is a caregiver for the elderly and people with disabilities, so she has a keen eye for signs of sickness and the like, which means she’s on my case as soon as I kick off my shoes.

“Jesus, Juliet, you look like you just broke out from the morgue.”

“Just another day in Paradise.”

On my way to the only bedroom I pass by a blur of her lean shape that resembles mine—basically a stripe in the landscape, firm bumps at the level of the breasts and butt. Her hair is much longer though, so it flows down her body in bouncy waves that are as beautiful as a doll’s. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to secure her a guy’s long-term attention in cold Berlin.

I hit the bed face down and only open my eyes again twenty-four hours later, when I’m left with five more hours until I’m to embark on a plane that’ll take me from the Berlin airport down to what I’ve heard is no man’s land. Runia has swapped her usual night shift with a colleague in order to assist me with my luggage and ask me a ton of questions, making me face stuff I really don’t want to deal with right now. Stuff I’d rather stay blind to.

“Have you considered that Herald could have dark reasons to put all of this on your shoulders? I mean, come on, it’s a huge deal, top secret, and if you screw up it can mean serious trouble,” she says while she stuffs thick sweaters over my rather flimsy stuff. I told her as much as I could tell her because, indeed, if something happens to me Herald would probably try to bury the whole thing, so someone should know where to have the Interpol start looking.

“I hear the Balkans are warmer than Germany, Runia, you can go easy on the winter stuff.”

“It’s autumn, and I’ve heard their winters are even more vicious than ours. I mean, have you read Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’? They have serious blizzards. Anyways, what if Herald has—”

“Listen, Runia,” I interrupt, holding up my hand. “This is a huge opportunity for me, all right? I don’t know who else would have trusted me with it at my age, and especially after less than six months experience in the media.”

“But that’s exactly my point. I know you’re ambitious Juliet, I admire that about you and I wish I was made of the same stuff, but don’t let the rush of a fast career blind you to—”

“Honey.” I walk around the bed and take her pretty face between my hands. “If I get what Herald needs on the prince, I’ll have all doors open. This will be the hardest, most vicious, most dangerous fight of my life, but it will also be the last, Runia.” I square my shoulders, reassessing my situation and feeling good about it. “And I’m ready for it.”

She looks at me, pressing her lips together, unwillingly accepting that I’m doing this. “What about your feelings for Herald? Are you sure they aren’t playing a role in this decision? The main role?”

“Of course they play a role. He wants me, Runia, he’s shown me that more than once. The way he looks at me and the way he came on to me that night…” I’m sure that stuff will feel a lot better when he’s sober. “But I have to prove myself to him. He’s not some desperate sugar daddy who’ll take the first model who’ll call him ‘lover,’ he wants substance, he wants a woman with real power to her.”

Runia shakes her head slightly. “As I said, I always admired your ambition and your brains, big sister, but when you’re in love, you’re downright stupid.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

But Runia has already pushed my hands down from her face and gone on to pick more clothes from the wardrobe.

“Tell me more about the prince. What’s in the file you brought the other night? You fell asleep on it,” she explains, sorting clothes. “I would have looked inside if you hadn’t been sprawled all over it.”

“A good thing you didn’t.” I check my briefcase for the file. It’s there, tucked safely between other papers I’ll need. “This is literally the kind of business you don’t want to know too much about.”

“Uuuuuu, I’m scared.” She pretends to be bracing herself and tremble. “You sound like Corleone.”

“I’m not joking, Runia.”

“At least do this for me.” She walks over, holding out her hand with a small gadget that I have to frown at to identify. “I know Herald said no technology because it’s easily hacked, especially by people as powerful as the prince.” She glances down to the small gadget. “But I’m pretty sure no one will take this seriously. Keep in touch.”

I take it and turn it in my hand, amused. “How did you even get the idea?”

She shrugs with a clever smile on her face. “There’s this thing about people with disabilities, especially the mentally challenged ones, that no one considers—They think outside the box by default, and disregard all rules. They have the most innovative minds.”

I’m deliciously surprised. This is one of those moments when I wish I were a selfless, people-loving caregiver like Runia, and marvel at the human genius where the entire world least expects it.

***

Turbulence has shaken the plane often enough to make me pray for my life. I haven’t prayed since I was six. Just as I thought the worst part was over, dragging my luggage from luggage claim, I bumped into a boisterous family of gypsies that tried to steal my purse. Hadn’t the cab driver the prince had sent for me intervened, I’d be stranded in No Man’s Land Romania without papers or money.

“Better watch it, miss,” he says in a thick accent as he picks up my luggage and leads me to the car. He’s a middle-aged man with a big gut, dark eyes, and a very friendly attitude. “You have better chance of surviving here without papers than without cash.”

This is another world, that much is certain. Everything seems old, the buildings withered and erratic, the people tired and angry, and the roads—don’t get me started on the roads. My organs shake inside of me from all the holes and ditches in the ground. After driving in a busy, emissions-smothered ring around Bucharest, we emerge into the plains, the road a meager streak cutting through, industry buildings on each side.

“It looks like business is picking up in your country,” I say, watching the halls glide by through the window.

“Picks up, yes, but not in interest of the common man,” the driver says, and continues praising his country’s natural resources and beauties, which he’s been doing continuously since we left the airport. He keeps checking the expression on my face in the rear-view mirror, so I have a causal smile in place at all times, though he doesn’t persuade me. This place is exotic, yes, but in that way.

I feel my jaw drop as we first pass a rickety cart trailing in the cloud of dust left behind by a racing Porsche. It’s almost disintegrating under a load of hay and wood, pulled by two runt horses and a drunken peasant with a lopsided hat and a long mustache.

“What in the world is this?”

“Get used to it, miss. Plenty more picturesque items where this came from.” The driver laughs hard.

The next thing I know, we come to a stop, waiting for a shepherd as drunk as the man in the cart to steer his herd of sheep across the road. They’re slow and curious, some of them stopping and watching us leisurely with grass between their teeth, chewing slowly.

I’m shocked and thinking about Herald’s words—for all the money in the world that the prince would pay me, staying here isn’t an option. When I think that we’re still inside the European Union, I could burst into laughter, but I refrain, especially because I find the context to ask the driver about Prince Radek.

“You say the prince sent you for me. Do you know him personally?”

“Prince Radek is a very private person. Very few people in town know him personally, but we all saw him on occasion.”

I tilt my head to the side, meeting his eyes in the rear-view mirror. “You’re a local from the prince’s town?”

“I live in Bran, the resort at the foot of his castle.”

My brain swells as it wraps around the information. I grab his seat. “You mean to tell me we’re going to the Bran castle? Like the one from Bram Stoker’s novel? Like the one from the Dracula movies?”

“Yes, yes,” the driver confirms, his big gut jumping up and down as he laughs hard. “Excuse my amusement, miss, but you’re sweet.”

“But he can’t be living there, that’s one of your major tourist attractions?”

“That’s right, but there are deeper layers to that story, miss. The prince has secretly bought the castle from the government years ago, yet has agreed to keep it as a tourist attraction and let the government cash in the proceeds.”

“So hand in hand with the government indeed,” I whisper, eyes darting left and right as I make connections in my head. Sure he manipulates the right people in the right places, he probably also bribes them with money from all the prosperous business around Dracula’s castle. The driver doesn’t dispute the theory either.

“It’s not impossible, miss. The prince’s family has always been well connected.”

In my enthusiasm I grab even tighter to his seat, pressing myself to it. I’m greedy for information, and this opportunity is gold. “What else can you tell me about him? I mean, I’m sure there’s a lot to say, but—”

“You have a crush on him, miss?”

The blood rushes to my cheeks. “Where would you get that idea?” I squeak.

He shrugs. “Everyone who meets him in person falls for him. It’s almost like a curse. All the girls in town, maybe some of the men, too.”

I remember the prince’s exceedingly attractive face, then the moving pictures of him as a ghost that he’s had the hacker manipulate into my phone.

“To be honest, I think he’s a terrible person.” I lean back and cross my arms, looking outside. It’s almost evening and we’ve reached the hills, the higher mountains shrouded in fog in the distance.

“This is indeed breathtaking.” I gawk at the sight.

“Wait until we’re reach the Carpathian heart,” the driver says like an eager accomplice. “It’s out of this world.”

“Out of this world is pretty much everything I’ve seen so far,” I mutter, but when he throws a, “What?” over his shoulder, I’m grateful he didn’t catch it.

What I get to see of the forests until the night falls is dense and uniquely wild. So much unlike the woods with man-made feel from my travels. I let down the window and peer into what turns out to be a precipice so deep that I can’t see the bottom, all black and hollow, draught messing up my hair.

“Pull back,” the driver calls. Startled, I draw my head back into the car.

“Why? It’s not like—”

“Don’t put parts of your body out there, miss,” he admonishes. “You don’t expose yourself to the Carpathians like that at night. They’re ancient and dangerous.”

I can’t hold back a laugh. “Oh, come on. We’re not in some Dracula movie.”

His gaze stays fixed on me in the mirror, and I wonder if he shouldn’t be watching the darkening road instead. My heart shrinks in my chest, I feel uneasy. Some strange power seems to have taken over, the car seemingly driving itself and floating as if the holes in the ground have disappeared miraculously, replaced by the smoothest asphalt.

“You’re not here as a tourist, miss. If you were, you’d be seeing a backward region with nothing to hold your modern interests, and none of this would be happening. But you’re here as a guest of Prince Radek.”

None of this would be happening echoes in my head as the car slams into something front-on, the impact throwing me between the front seats. I manage to catch myself with hands against the dashboard and keep my head safe, so there’s no reason to doubt what I’m seeing through the slowly cracking windshield as I raise my eyes. I feel them widen in dread, my fingers gripping to the dashboard.

***

Stay tuned fro more next week, folks 🙂 Subscribe with your e-mail address and make sure you’re notified as soon as a new chapter is out. Looking forward to hearing from you.

 

Prince of Midnight – Chapter One

Loves, the muse is here, and I pray she’s here to stay 🙂 Here is the beginning of a new novel I intend to release for Halloween, Prince of Midnight. Let me know what you think.

Prince of Midnight

CHAPTER I

Juliet

My first press conference is a nightmare. We’re talking a monstrous gathering at the old Opera House that traps me between other reporters, more experienced than me, and more ferocious than my ribs can take. Their jabs to my sides are merciless as they battle for the best spots and best visibility to be picked for questions, but I’ll be damned if I give in.

“Move out of the way, blondie.” A guy around my age with ambition written all over his face tries to shove me. Gripping my overlarge smart phone to my chest with one hand, I hold on tightly to the rail before me with the other. Keeping a spot in the first row is always a struggle, my rather fragile frame suffers, my hair is electrified like a white-blond version of Jackson 5, but fuck it.

Hang in there, Juliet Jochs. For the prize.

My prize, my target, my beacon is Radek Matthayus, a prince from the Carpathians. Though I haven’t seen him in person yet, I know all there is to know about the scrap of public persona he maintains. In short, he’s young, eccentric, a Casanova, and so immensely rich that he can’t be clean. Where he comes from, clean businessmen don’t make it like he did. In only a few years he increased his family’s inheritance by no less than fifty percent.

“Ladies and Gents, I give you prince Radek Matthayus, our patron and benefactor,” the master of ceremonies finally announces, rubbing his wrinkled hands together. His lips draw in an ass-kissing smile, while his eyes turn to the spot where Prince Radek is expected to appear.

The commotion stills for a few blessed moments that allow me to fill my ribcage with air. Clapping of hands announces the prince is close. I crane my neck to get a glimpse of him as he walks up the side stairs onto the stage, his shadow licking the velvet curtain as he moves flowingly towards the master of ceremonies.

There are few pictures of him on the web, none of them clearly focused, but enough for me to recognize him. Tall, black suit, dark hair and blue eyes, his face too pretty for a guy, and too young for his notorious money-making skills. After the master of ceremonies thanks him with heavens and earth for buying the old Opera House and saving it from being torn down and transformed into yet another mall, Radek takes the mike.

“It’s an honor to become the owner of this magnificent symbol of your history.” His voice is musical, trapped somewhere in his boyhood years, hypnotically pleasant. It distracts me from what he says next, but I snap right back to myself the moment questions are announced.

My arm shoots up into the air at once with all the others but, no matter how hard I try, the master of ceremonies doesn’t pick me.

Of course he doesn’t. I’m a new reporter, and young ones are usually too ambitious for their own good. At least that’s what I heard him say once after a shadowy auction that Radek also won, but I didn’t get inside the auction itself to see it.

No doubt, the master of ceremonies knows I’m going to talk about the elephant in the room. Is Radek Matthayus supporting corrupt officials in his country? Has he helped boycott all attempts of building infrastructure in order to block foreign investment? Who is he bribing in order to get his hands on the most valuable pieces of real state in his country and beyond, and what is his ultimate purpose for amassing properties all over Europe? He usually keeps his business shrouded in mystery, but the old Opera House is too much of a national gem, so it proved impossible to keep the transaction behind closed doors. The entire national press is here, from shark to small fish.

Blocking real questions is the only shield against exposure of dark affairs. Only inquiries about renovation make it to the stage, about other properties the prince intends to acquire, even a question about his love life. The prince is very private about it, but he gives the brunette who asked a seductive smile.

“Sadly, I haven’t met the love of my life yet,” he says in his musical voice that makes the brunette flush. Boy, is she obnoxious with those needle-enhanced lips and fake fingernails. I crease my nose.

“But I sure hope Cupid takes his aim on me soon,” he concludes.

The brunette isn’t the only one who sighs like a hopeful idiot upon his answer. This beautiful bastard has women at his feet, and he sure as hell knows it. He plays on it, seducing them, depleting them of attention, admiration, adoration, sex, then throwing them away like broken shells.

“Maybe Cupid’s arrows just splinter against your steely heart,” I call out on an impulse. All heads around turn to me, including Prince Radek’s. Eat this, pretty bastard. “Considering your looks and wealth, you must be spoiled for choice. I’m surprised you haven’t found someone to your liking yet. Unless you think none of your admirers is good enough for you.” I shrug. “Just sayin’.”

Prince Radek’s eyes lock on me. His irises are turbid blue, like murky water, impossible to see through. But one thing is crystal clear—behind them lies a poisonous snake.

“You’re prejudiced, Miss Jochs,” he muses, tilting his head to the side and narrowing his eyes. Startled, I glance from him to my nametag, then back again. Wow, what an eyesight.

“I don’t get around that much. Part of my work requires solitude, part of it bleak attorney offices and long negotiations, rarely ballrooms and select social circles, as you might imagine. I don’t actually meet so many women.”

He’s lying. He must be. His porcelain face that’s really too pretty for a guy compels you to stare. His skin stretches young and flawless over a masculine bone structure, his lips blood red and carnal. The more I look at him, the less I’m able to look away, and his feline smile tells me he’s used to that. The guy’s a born seducer, a magnificent beast that breaks hearts for the fun of it.

His attention leaves me shortly after our exchange, but he glances at me every now and again. Before he leaves, followed by his bodyguards, I manage to snap a few pictures of him with my smartphone. I check their quality a few times, delete the bleary ones, and keep two that Herald, my boss and crush, should be happy with. Oh, he’ll be so proud of me when he sees my interaction with the shadow prince all over national press tomorrow morning.

***

 

I wake up in the middle of the night from headlights flashing between the slats of my blinds. I glance at the electronic clock on my side-table. It shows a glowing red two a.m. that hurts my eyes—pale blue is a color that makes eyes sensitive even to a blur of snow.

My tongue sticking to my palate, I step into my slippers and drag myself to the kitchenette for a few long gulps of water when I notice my smartphone blinking a weird white. I frown at it with the water still in my hand, struggling to understand. It usually blinks green when the battery is full, red when it’s almost empty, never white. Confused, I pick it up, punch in the code and swipe. Then I drop it and the water like they burn. The glass smashes on the floor, but the phone remains intact after it hits the counter.

I analyzed and overanalyzed the pictures I took of Radek Matthayus after the conference, and I’m pretty damn sure he wasn’t looking my way in either of them. I’m also sure the last thing I did before I put away my phone was NOT looking at his picture, so why does the screen light up to it? And why is he looking straight back at me, like he knows where I’m standing and what I’m doing, when I know for a fact I photographed the side of his face TWICE?

The blue in his eyes seems strange too. Frowning, I bend down to get a better look. No, the blue isn’t strange. His eyeballs seem rolled backwards, revealing the whites, his skin pale, a ghost staring back at me. His blood red lips go pale as death, and a grin begins to stretch along his face slowly, the skin cracking.

I jolt backwards, knocking down the stool behind me. On the kitchenette counter, the screen goes dark. I don’t feel safe enough to fall asleep again, yet by the time dawn begins rippling along the horizon I’ve formed a reasonable theory in my head—Radek Matthayus is a powerful man who can pay big for manipulating technology. He must have had some tech wizard hack into my phone from some basement, and scare me witless as punishment for making pretty boy look bad all over national press. The more I think about it, the more my ego swells. One way or the other, the prince has taken serious notice of me.

 

***

Stay tuned for more next week! It will get dark and dangerous 🙂

Hyperion – The Assassin is LIVE and FREE

Hi Peeps! Got huge news again today. My romantic suspense short story, Hyperion – The Assassin, is live and free starting today! Grab your copy and tell your friends, too. if you share this with other people (either on your blog, on social media or via e-mail) I’ll be sure to reward you richly with another three free books: The Executioner Part One, The Executioner Part Two, and The Revenge of Andrey Jones – coming out mid November – but also with many other free books by other authors every month.

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Hyperion is an assassin with a fist of iron and a heart of ice. Not entirely human, he’s the only one who can fight a special kind of enemy. After being sent to the Dark Forest, he sets up camp and begins observing his target from the shadows. There’s little Hyperion doesn’t see coming, and even less he can’t deal with. That is, until his target’s young wife, Ligia, steps into the picture. A woman surrounded by darkness seeks the assassin, and threatens to melt the heart that has been frozen for so long.

Get it for FREE here! and stay tuned for more goodies coming up this week.

Personality test: How does this picture make you feel?

Please choose from the following the variant that best describes how looking at this picture makes you feel within the first seconds. You won’t believe what your choice can reveal about you.

  1. Safe, relaxed, peaceful
  2. Intrigued, excited, travel
  3. Old, loss of perspective
  4. Culture, history, smart, special
  5. Mystery, possibility, infinity

Interpretations:

  1. Your strength is: your inner world is your haven; it’s rich enough to feed an army.
  2. Your strength is: you’re electrifying, active, dynamic.
  3. Your strength is: you’re a creature of progress, modernity, you can make it in modern society. Might have to watch out for depression.
  4. Your strength is: you’re an explorer, a discoverer, and you have great eye for both details that matter and essentials.
  5. Your strength is: you’re fascinating, often compelling, huge inner world that can suck in like quicksand.

Of course, these are just sketches based on this quick choice. Take the many other personality tests that are available for you in the Personality Tests section on this site, and get much deeper insights about the still unknown corners of your personality. If want yet more, feel free to ask me for a personal profile. I’m always happy to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in a comment, and don’t shy away from making suggestions for further posts.

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Pic source.

Freed – Ep. 44 of “The Marquis”

It’s heart-breaking, watching Zed bent over the bed where Yvette lies, her face like wax. I would’ve never imagined the Head of Security, the man I once nicknamed “Stone Face” expressing such intense hurt. His edgy features are distorted, his eyes scrunched shut as he bites his knuckles as if that helps him subdue the pain to a bearable level, hands clasping tightly to each other. So much death, so much pain.

“It was Lauren Morris who killed her,” Joyous whispers in my ear. We’re standing in the doorstep of a small service hut adjacent to the manor. “She killed Yvette on her way to the tower, where she planned to do the same with you. They fought, but in the end Lauren was stronger.”

“But that’s not possible,” I babble among sobs, keeping as quiet as I can in order not to disturb Zed. “I saw the two of them fight each other before, Lauren would’ve never stood a chance against Yvette.”

“Normally not, but Lauren had a secret weapon – the truth about what happened when the Black Monks’ curse hit Zed, and his fingers drilled into Vivien.”

My head snaps to him. “Something happened then?”

Joyous the Healer keeps looking at Zed as he talks, as if assessing the state of his health from a distance. “Vivien and Zed connected on a very deep level. We still don’t understand exactly in what way, but we know the first thing Zed said when he opened his eyes – after you made the painting of him – was Vivien’s name. The event had a powerful effect on Vivien as well, an effect that apparently went as deep as her DNA, which we’ll test soon. We don’t think what binds them is romantic in nature, we rather think it’s biological, but it’s still something we have yet to fully understand.”

“Then how . . . why . . . how could Lauren use that as a weapon against Yvette?”

“It was all in the way she put things. It seems she made Yvette think Zed and Vivien were now bound like star-crossed lovers who would only resist being together in order not to hurt her, and that weakened Yvette’s desire to live.”

“Joyous, are you sure about this? How do you even know what was said between Lauren and Yvette?”

His face takes on an infinitely sad expression, like that of a parent melting with pain as they see their child cry. “When Zed found Yvette she was still alive. She died in his arms, after she gave him her blessing to be with Vivien.”

Tears course down my face, bundling on the tip of my chin. This is a tragedy. I try to keep my sniffling inconspicuous, but I can’t bring myself to leave the hut, not wanting to miss the chance of helping Zed if he needs me in any way.

Other serpent-men come in and out, pretending to have things to do in the hut in order to quietly check on Zed, then they leave just as quietly and grim-faced.

I know the kind of pain that’s consuming him, and I know no one should approach him now. He needs to be with Yvette. Still, I can’t take my eyes and focus off them until Jeanie approaches and whispers between Joyous and me.

“The town people got a priest for the dead. He’d start with Yvette now, so that her soul can be on its way. She’s the only human, the rest of the dead are Black Monks and serpents, and for some reason he doesn’t consider matters as urgent for them.”

I’m more than relieved that my sweet curly-headed, milky-skinned Jeanie is safe and sound, but all I feel capable of giving her is a slight nod. She looks devastated as well, and it has to do with Jeremy. He’s not dead, though, and that moves him down on my list of priorities.

Lauren is top of it right now. I need to talk to her. I already forgave her for many things, such as having sought and used every opportunity to hurt me all my life, for having destroyed my relationship with Jeremy right before our wedding, even for having tried to kill me, but I can’t forgive her for this cruelty – when asked whether she regretted having killed Yvette, only a few hours later in the dungeons, she says with a vicious grin that she doesn’t in the least.

She says that Yvette was a plump middle-aged woman who embarrassed herself by pursuing a relationship with a man who seemed much younger than her, not to mention outrageously more handsome. She also says that she’d merely cleared Zed’s future of what would’ve proven ballast that he respected too much to shake off. That he should actually be grateful to her. Her only regret is having tormented me the way she did, now realizing I’m the only innocent person in this entire story. I can’t listen to any more of this. I turn on my heel and stomp out of the dungeons along with en escort of serpent-men.

The serpents manage to keep Zed away from Lauren’s cell, since he would surely end her, and she stands under both my and Kieran’s protection for having made the decisive move in the fight between Kieran and Basarab. Hadn’t it been for her, my lover would now be dead too. We have yet to see what to do about her.

Joyous, Jeanie and a few serpent-men escort me to the study to see Kieran. Here he’s having his last important talk before he brings his business in Northville to a final close, they say. And right before we knock on the doors they open widely to let a team of men in white medical clothes carry away a screaming and raging Jeremy Simmons. They make for such a commotion, that we instinctively clear the way to the sides to let them pass, restricting our reactions to staring after them, seeking sense of the picture.

Jeremy’s bulk is useless against the expert arms of the very same men who’d broken my bones with jets of water at the asylum. All I can do is watch as they take him away. His maddened eyes latch on to me like I’m everything to him, his fingers splaying towards me like a man’s reaching for his only hope.

“Saphira, listen to me!” His voice reminds me of the lamenting lunatics back at the asylum. “This wasn’t my fault, Saphira! This was not my fault! We are both victims, Saphira!”

He keeps calling out my name as the men in white drag him away down the corridor, his screams growing faint. A presence behind me makes me turn, and my eyes meet the beautiful face of Kieran Slate.

Our arms wrap around each other, our embrace tight like that of two people frantic to keep together, terrified they might be separated again. We touch each other to make sure the other isn’t hurt, and I must say the hard feel of his body under his shirt elates me – it gives me the feeling that he’s not only whole and healthy, but also indestructible. I couldn’t take knowing him in mortal danger again, it would surely kill me.

I cup his face and look up into his pitch black eyes, revelling in the awareness that we’re together again, and promising him and myself that I’d never leave his side again.

“I love you, Kieran, I love you so much!” I stand on my tiptoes, kissing his cheeks and his forehead that he seems happy to offer, bending down to me.

“And I adore you, Saphira.”

We kiss deeply and desperately, our souls merging with each other, forgetting time, place and the group of serpent-men hovering around us, watching. Joyous clears his throat and touches Kieran’s shoulder, bringing us both back to reality.

“There are a few more matters you might want to deal with right away. Like Saphira’s mother, for example, she’s desperate to see her daughter.”

“Take her to a room in the west wing. Saphira will come to see her after she’s rested.” He looks at me again, a delicate smile on his face. “It might take until tomorrow.”

For a moment there I ask myself if all the horror I’ve been through is the price for the out-of-this-world love that I’ve been blessed to experience. It’s so unique, intense like the strongest drug, and so much more powerful than anything I’ve ever felt, even for Jeremy. Jeremy . . .

“Isn’t that measure too drastic?” I ask Kieran a while later, after immediate matters have been attended to, and the door to our chamber closes behind us. “Locking Jeremy in the lunatic asylum, I mean. In the end, he was under Basarab’s possession while he did everything he did, even as he first cheated on me.”

“Precisely because of that,” Kieran says, removing his shirt and revealing the marble perfection of his elegant muscles. “Basarab’s possession left him seriously damaged, plus that –“ he approaches and wraps his arms around my exhausted body. “He did serve the Elite, Saphira, remember? Those old pigs that run half the country paid Jeremy Simmons to keep them warm in Northville and in his side of London, and he obliged without scruples.”

The Elite . . .

“What will happen to them?” I whisper.

“They will pay dearly for what they’ve done, but that’s no longer our concern. I want to dedicate my life to making you happy, Saphira. No more revenge, no more bitterness, no more war.”

Kieran bends his head and kisses me under the light of full moon that hazes between the vaporous curtains. I close my eyes and relish in the silky, warm feel of his lips, excited like the first time my crush kissed me, and yet feeling so at home. The most wonderful sensation, the perfect interlacing between the highs of infatuation and the depths of true love. I nestle my head at his chest, listening to his heartbeat. Maybe we still have a chance of putting all this behind us, a chance at complete happiness, even after so much evil. Maybe this love does have the power to dispel the shadow of everything that happened.

“Take me away from all this death, Kieran.”

***

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Stay tuned for the last Epilogue next Friday, to be a part of Saphira and Kieran’s final adventures! Until then, feel free to roam this site for all the goodies it has to offer.

 

Pic source.