Twisted Princess Box Set
Genre: Dark fantasy
Date of Publication: April 1st 2017
Number of pages: 261
Word Count: 70,000
Cover Artist: SKGregory
The Beast Within
S. K. Gregory
For Izzy, working with supernatural beings is part of her job. When she is called to clean up the mess of a cursed werewolf, her life takes a dark turn as she faces the beast within.
Excerpt The Beast Within:
I scrubbed at the floor, arms aching, as I tried to remove the blood. The floor was covered in pink tainted water but I seemed to have gotten most of it off.
Tossing the cloth into the bucket, I stood up, wiping my hands on my t shirt. Judging from the stains on it, I was going to have to throw it out anyway. I really should have asked for a clothing budget when I took this gig.
I caught movement in the doorway. He was there, lurking in the shadows.
“I’m sorry,” he said softly.
It took all my self-control to say, “It’s fine.”
It wasn’t fine. He tore a man to shreds, mangled his corpse and he was sorry?
“I killed someone Izzy.”
Turning to face him, I said, “Well that will teach you to upgrade your security when I tell you to. You’re lucky he didn’t get out of here. According to his ID, he was a reporter.”
Adam bowed his head and sighed. I guess knowing who the guy was didn’t make it any easier, but it wasn’t my job to make him feel better, I was just here to clean up the mess. Well technically my job is security expert and advisor to the Alpha werewolf of the city. Cleaning up after his cursed son is just a bonus. One I didn’t ask for, but who else was he going to call?
“I’ll be sure to invoice your father,” I said.
It would be double time too considering it was 3am.
Adam moved aside as I stepped out of the room. His dark curly hair fell over his face as he kept his head bowed in shame. As a human he was quiet, apologetic and a pushover. Nothing like his father, Mr. CEO.
He was cursed when he was in his teens. I don’t know by who, but he was never in control of the beast within. All werewolves can control the change, shifting seamlessly from one form to the other. For Adam though, he had no control and the shift was agony. He was kept locked away in this huge mansion, making him the source of many rumors, which was probably what led the reporter here in the first place.
Bet he didn’t think he’d end up a stain on the floor, I thought.
“Goodnight Adam,” I said.
He muttered something in reply but I was already half way to the door. I stepped out into the frigid morning air. Maybe I could get a couple of hours sleep before my morning meetings.
“Werewolves,” I muttered.
Once behind the wheel I took another look at the reporter’s credentials which I found buried in guts. His name was Noah Baxter. I tossed the idea into the glovebox, I’d dispose of it later. For now, I just wanted to sleep and get the image of blood out of my mind.
I met with Adam’s father before lunch the next day. I was strictly off book so he didn’t like me hanging around his office. I didn’t like getting called out in the middle of the night, I guess we both had a reason to be annoyed. Knowing about the supernatural puts me in a unique position. I have the skills necessary to help various beings out, for the right price, and they know I won’t reveal their secret. I haven’t always known about them. A few years back when I was fresh out of college and desperate for work, I took a job as a PA to a man called Hank Fletcher. I thought he worked in home and private security, I had no idea he spent his days working with werewolves, demons and vampires. When he clued me in I was shocked to say the least, but I was smart enough to know what would happen if their existence became public knowledge. Hank was a good man, he taught me everything he knew although at the time I had no intention of using it. He died suddenly, three years in. His death left a hole and since I needed the money, I decided to fill it, temporarily at least. That was seven years ago, I guess it took over my life.
“Isabelle, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Mr. Foster said as I entered his office. The cold look in his eyes betrayed his real mood. I had no love for him either, but he was one of my top paying clients.
“It’s Izzy,” I said. I hated my full name. It made me sound like I was some dainty little girl, which I most definitely wasn’t. I’m a black belt and I can turn pretty much anything into a weapon if I need to. You have to be prepared in this game. Everything I was up against had fangs or claws or super strength, so I needed to be able to protect myself.
Unfolding an invoice from my pocket, I placed it on his desk. It was for my work last night, plus the late night call out fee which brought the total to 2k. “For last night.”
“Yes, I heard about the incident. Very unfortunate.”
That was all he had to say? His son massacred a man and it was unfortunate? Unfortunate was getting a parking ticket or losing out on a promotion, not cold blooded murder. I waited while he wrote me a check, biting my tongue.
His office was void of personal items, except for one photo of Adam. He looked about seventeen, leaning on a red corvette. He looked different, confident. Cocky even. Was that before the curse? I wondered. If his manners were anything like his father’s, then I’m not surprised he pissed someone off. It was one of the reasons I didn’t deal with witches, one cross word and you end up spending the rest of your life as a toad or worse.
“I will be going on a business trip in a few days. Given what happened, I hope you’ll make yourself available during that time to ensure nothing happens again,” Mr. Foster said.
Sure, it’s not like I have a life or other clients to deal with.
“I’ll keep my phone on,” I said. I wasn’t promising him anything, I had plans with Gavin this weekend. He has been away on business for weeks and I was looking forward to our reunion.
Once I had the check, I headed up town to meet with my next client, a woman called Dusty, who happened to be a vampire. She ran a tea shop, while trafficking blood through the city in her spare time. Vampires weren’t a huge problem, mostly due to Dusty’s efforts. By keeping them supplied with blood ‘acquired’ from the local hospital, it stopped them from snacking on humans. I acted as security to the transactions.
It’s amazing what goes on under regular people’s noses. How much they don’t ‘see.’ Ask someone on the street if they believe in werewolves or vampires and they’ll laugh in your face. Right after they bought a cup of coffee from one or sat next to one on the bus.
Dusty was carefully slicing a large chocolate cake when I entered her shop. There were a few customers, but otherwise it was quiet. Dusty was short with red hair and really pale skin. Most vampires covered that with fake tan, but Dusty went au naturale.
“Can I interest you in a slice?” she asked.
“I would, but I’m planning a romantic weekend, so better not.”
She tutted, “Please there isn’t an ounce of fat on you.”
My job did have some perks, always running around meant I rarely had to go to the gym.
“What time is the delivery?” I asked.
“Half eight. Dimitri will meet you in the usual spot.” Dimitri has a similar job to mine although he works primarily with the vampires.
“I’ll be there.”
My mouth was watering at the sight of the cake so I relented and took a slice to go. I didn’t have time for lunch anyway.
At eight fifteen, I parked my car a block away and walked to an alleyway near Dusty’s shop. I found a spot in the shadows and waited. At half eight, the truck backed into the alley and Dimitri hopped out.
He was a tall, hulking man who always wore a leather jacket, even in summer. He gave me a nod to let me know he had seen me.
A few minutes later a scared looking intern arrived carrying a cooler. He looked like he was going to piss himself. Dimitri took the cooler from him and looked inside.
“What's this?” he asked. “We need more than this.”
“I tried, man, but they're clamping down. I barely got out with this.” His voice was high and whiny.
Dimitri swore in Russian. I stepped forward, making the intern jump. He hadn't seen me.
“I swear it's all I could get,” he protested.
“You better make up for it next time,” I said.
He opened his mouth to argue but thought better of it and took off.
“The clients won't be happy,” Dimitri said.
“I know. Make sure the worst get their supply. Let the rest know what will happen if they break the rules,” I said.
Vampires could last a couple of months without blood, but it drove them crazy. The last thing I needed was more trouble. As much as I would have enjoyed pounding on that guy, we couldn’t afford to alienate him. Besides he was human, it wasn’t his fault he had gotten sucked into this mess. He didn’t even know what the blood was for. The only thing he knew was that we had incriminating evidence of him stealing painkillers from the hospital pharmacy.
The vamps would have to tough it out a while longer.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory was born in Northern Ireland in 1985. She is the author of several series of books including Daemon Persuasion, which was published by Mockingbird Lane Press.
She loves horror movies, reading and archery. In her spare time she runs a review blog for authors. All of her works are available to purchase through Amazon.
Jane knows the tale of Sleepless Beauty well, an urban legend in her home town which tells the story of a beautiful woman who enraptures her prey with a kiss and steals their sleep. Jane tries to convince herself that it's just a fairy tale, until Sleepless Beauty kisses her best friend Hayden.
Excerpt Sleepless Beauty:
The fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty used to terrify me as a child.
The thought of sleeping for a hundred years, only to be woken by true love’s first kiss—is it really true love when you’re kissed by someone you don’t know? I remember being scared of spindles. Why were they so pointy and made princesses sleep? And that was made worse by the fact that my eccentric mother kept an antique up in the attic among the many other weird things she keeps of our family history.
And she wonders why I moved in with Dad after the divorce.
But I think something else contributed to my terror of that one fairy tale. Growing up in Savannah, Georgia, I’d always hear about this ghost that floated around Colonial Park Cemetery. If you saw her, you’d fall in love with her and become so obsessed that you’d stop sleeping. And then you died.
And the ghost was called Sleepless Beauty.
For a young girl like me, an urban legend may as well be a fairy tale. In fact, I consider them to be worse because they don’t have that ‘once upon a time’ element. Urban legends happen in the now and in your corner of the world.
So while the stories Sleepless Beauty and Sleeping Beauty seemed to be the exact opposites of each other, my mind equated both Beauties to the same scary character that haunted my nightmares.
Did I believe in them? Oh yeah, even now that I’m sixteen. And I think Sleepless Beauty especially haunted everyone I know, because five of us are standing outside of the Colonial Park Cemetery at midnight while my friend Hayden scales the gates to go visit Sleepless Beauty.
On a dare.
Yeah, we’re not very smart, and I can see the tension on all our too-wide-eyed faces.
“Careful, Hayden!” my best friend Lizzie yells up at him as he swings one leg over the spiked, wrought iron fence.
“He’ll be fine,” Marcel tells her with a smirk. Of course he’d be smirking, this whole dare was his idea. I want to point out to him that since we’re stuck on this side of the fence, we have no way of knowing whether or not Hayden will be fine or not. There could be raccoons or coyotes or police over there.
Or even ghosts that kill you slowly.
I wince watching Hayden, my mind painting pictures of him slipping and impaling his leg on the vicious, ornate fence. Colonial Park Cemetery is a couple hundred years old. I wonder who the builders of it were trying to keep out. Or keep in.
Hayden finally pushes himself over and jumps down, landing on his feet on the other side. He gives a triumphant grin—one that I can’t help but roll my eyes at—as he salutes us.
“Totally easy,” he says, brushing off his letterman’s jacket.
“Just be careful,” I tell him.
He nods. “Start the clock. An hour, right?”
Marcel holds up his phone, the light emanating from it telling us that he has already started timing. “Time’s a-wastin.’”
“I’ll be back,” Hayden says in a bad imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger. He winks at me before taking off at a jog. I feel that familiar flutter in my heart as the shadows swallow him up. It’s a flutter that hasn’t been there for very long, but it gets stronger and stronger the more time we spend together.
“Why don’t they have street lights down there?” Lizzie mutters, rubbing the chill from her arms. Her breath comes out in little white clouds.
“It’s a historic landmark,” our friend Cole says. He’s been kind of quiet all night, underneath his beanie and his hoodie. But then again, Cole has always been quiet. “And there are so many unmarked graves there, they don’t want to disturb them by running electrical lines all over the place.”
Makes sense, but still, it’s too eerie, too dark for me to feel easy around here. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m being watched.
Like something within those shadows wants to reach out and pull me into the depths of hell.
Okay, that may be a little dramatic, but it certainly feels that way.
“Hey,” Lizzie says, “he’ll be fine.”
“Oh,” I say, trying to shake it off. “Of course. I mean, who’s going to be at a cemetery at this time of night?”
“Sleepless Beauty,” Marcel says, and I clench my teeth with that. “So, what’s happening with you and Hayden anyways?”
And, just like that, my mind goes from being terrified to being absolutely mortified. It’s not the first time this topic has been brought up in my little group of friends. Sometimes just to either me or Hayden, but sometimes, it’s in front of everyone with a little bit of teasing.
It was just in good fun. I think.
“Leave Jane alone,” Lizzie says, giving Marcel a glare. “They’re working things out.”
I guess that’s what you could call it. If working it out meant chuckling about it later and me holding my breath for Hayden to say that we should try it. But, the last time we did talk about it, Hayden just smirked and gave me a hug.
“Wouldn’t want to ruin our friendship, Jane,” he told me that time. “We’ve been friends since we were two.”
But isn’t that how a good romance goes? People can have their fairy tales. What I think we had is something bound by fate. We know each other better than we know ourselves.
Wouldn’t we be the perfect match? And then I can justify these strange feelings that I’ve been having for the past two years. And it didn’t used to be like that—hell, Hayden and I grew up together, as neighbors. I saw him naked when I was three years old. We were best friends, shared birthday parties and toys. When his mother went to the grocery store, my mom would watch after us. When my parents argued before they got divorced, I’d sneak over to his room and stay there until morning.
But then, when high school started, something changed. He started looking less like the Hayden that peed himself in the pool when we were five and more like…well, Hayden the heartthrob. His arms filled out from playing football and his acne, bad in middle school, finally stopped being a problem, leaving smooth, tanned skin.
All the girls loved him. And I found that I’m one of them.
“Hey.” I jump and blink at Lizzie who had spoken. She looks at me, concern etched into her face. “You okay?”
I shrug, trying to play it cool. Not like I was just trying to figure out my love life. “Yeah. Totally fine.”
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
I give a hollow laugh. “Well, isn’t that why we’re here? To see a ghost?”
“That’s why Hayden’s here,” Marcel says, breaking into the conversation. “I’m here for my twenty bucks when he pisses himself and has to come crawling back.”
“You really think he’ll come running back?” Cole asks dazedly.
“Yeah,” Marcel says. “Didn’t you see how scared he looked?”
Actually, Hayden didn’t look very scared at all. Marcel’s uneasy chuckling makes him look like he’s terrified out of his mind.
“Well, I’m scared, and I’m not even on the other side,” Lizzie says, straightening up. “Ghost or no ghost.”
“Do you really think he’ll see her?” I ask.
“Something would have to be real for you to see it,” Marcel says cockily. At my narrowed eyes, he belts out a laugh. “What, do you believe in Sleepless Beauty, Jane? C’mon, I’ll give you forty bucks to go join your lover boy.”
“He’s not my lover boy,” I say, too defensively.
“Leave her alone,” Cole sighs.
I can’t help but feel like I should be on the other side of that fence though. Like this is all my doing. After all, I was the one who brought up Sleepless Beauty. We were over at Lizzie’s having some drinks and just, you know, talking when we played a game of Truth or Dare to spice things up a little bit. I chose Truth and that was where I admitted that I’d been terrified of Sleepless beauty since before I could remember. Hayden backed up my story, which turned into this dare/bet from Marcel.
And here we are.
Time seems to go by so slowly here. I talk with Lizzie, discuss boys and the squad. Marcel and Cole do their own thing, but we’re sure to be quiet, since the cops could show up at any point.
Cole kicks a rock, sending it off into the darkness. I watch as he paces, his hands in his hoodie’s front pocket. Such a quiet guy.
Meanwhile, Marcel is playing on his phone, the screen lighting up his face in sinister blues and whites. Marcel’s the loud one, with a wide grin and the wit of someone who’d grow up to be Seth Rogan. He fits in any group at school, and for some reason, chooses to hang out with us.
“I’ve got such a bad feeling about this,” Lizzie murmurs, her frown mirroring my own.
I hope she’s not right. Lizzie replaced Hayden as my best friend when we went through a period of boys have cooties. With her darker hair and bright blue eyes, she’s gorgeous. And I know she’d do anything for me.
Then there’s Hayden, the jock and the brains all rolled into one. Like Marcel, he fits into any group on campus, and I think that’s why they’re best friends.
And last, but not least, there’s me. Jane Dyer, the popular girl because she can do a double handspring for the cheerleading squad. I’m smart too, and with my dad’s lawyer connections, I’ll probably get into an Ivy League college after high school. From there, I don’t know what else to expect out of life.
But I expect Hayden to be a part of it.
“Been in there for a bit, hasn’t he?” Cole murmurs suddenly.
As if on cue, Marcel’s alarm goes off. The loud noise in the otherwise quiet cemetery makes both Lizzie and me shriek in unison.
“Jesus, Marcel, do you have to have the Self Destruct Alarm on your phone?” Lizzie gasps.
Marcel snickers as he takes out his phone and turns it off. “Keeping you on your toes, ladies.”
Lizzie scoffs, but not before I see movement on the other side of the fence.
Silence. The rest of my friends follow my gaze towards the space where I’m squinting at, and come up behind me. There’s some movement there, so there is definitely something on the other side.
I lean forward, threading my hands through the bars to get a better look.
“I saw her!”
I scream and stumble backwards, away from the fence. Hayden stands in the space where my face had been. He’s grinning widely at us from the other side of the fence, his smile contagious. My scream, however, sets Marcel rolling with laughter.
“Dammit, Hayden!” I say. “You nearly gave me a heart attack.”
Hayden at least has the decency to look apologetic as he scales the fence. He climbs it faster this time, his movements more sure than they were when he climbed over an hour ago. He drops to the ground and dusts off his pants.
“Gah, I guess I owe you twenty bucks,” Marcel mutters, taking out his wallet.
“What do you mean, you saw her?” Cole asks, frowning. “Who’s her?”
“Who do you think?” Hayden asks as he takes the bill from Marcel. “I saw Sleepless Beauty.”
The floor seems to tilt underneath me and I force myself to stay upright. “You saw her? Did she?”
Hayden beams at me. “I saw her. She kissed me. Told me she loved me. And…”
“And?” I ask.
Hayden just smiles. But there’s something different about him, something that I can’t quite place. Because he looks joyful at the moment. Glowing, like he’s found true happiness.
“You’re so full of crap,” Marcel mutters.
“Am I?” Hayden asks, sounding genuinely offended.
“Remind me never to bet with you again,” Marcel counters. “And how do I know that you were actually at her grave?”
“Oh, I was,” Hayden promises. “And she’s beautiful.”
Marcel makes a disgusted noise as he turns away, grumbling about Hayden cheating and being a dipshit. I want to ask Hayden more, but from the roll of Lizzie’s eyes, she doesn’t believe him either.
“Let’s get going, Jane,” Lizzie says, as she’s joined by Cole.
Hayden gives me a playful shrug as he follows them, leaving me to frown in his wake. Did he or did he not see Sleepless Beauty? He seems all right, not scared out of his wits like I would have been in his shoes. Then again, Hayden was always the stronger one, so he could spend an hour in a graveyard by himself, just to make a point.
I sigh and start walking after them. But a few steps from the fence, I turn back, feeling the eyes of something on me as I walk away. The cemetery is still silent, still dark.
I can’t help but feel like something very wrong had happened out here tonight.
About the Author:
Sci-fi junkie, video game nerd, and wannabe manga artist Erin Hayes writes a lot of things. Sometimes she writes books.
She works as an advertising copywriter by day, and she's an award-winning New York Times Bestselling Author by night. She has lived in New Zealand, Hawaii, Texas, Alabama, and now San Francisco with her husband, cat, and a growing collection of geek paraphernalia.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and she’ll be happy to chat. Especially if you want to debate Star Wars.
Margo Bond Collins
Aboard the Rapunzel-320, Cybele helps a plague ridden planet with medical supplies. Her budding romance with Finlay is both forbidden and risky. Can she figure out a way for them to be together or is she doomed to a life of solitude?
Excerpt Spectral Velocity:
“Rapunzel-320, do you copy?” The slightly mechanized voice buzzed through Cybele’s helmet—an utterly unnecessary piece of equipment in her opinion, but one that she donned every time she took the pilot’s seat, exactly as protocol required.
“Copy, ground control. I’m ready to drop the line whenever you say the word. Over.”
“Hold that, Rapunzel-320. Maintain altitude.”
“Copy that.” Cybele tapped her forefinger against the control panel impatiently, waiting for the moment she could dip down into the atmosphere and ride the currents. That was really the only reason she looked forward to these trips down-planet.
At least, that’s what she told herself.
It has nothing to do with a chance to speak to another person.
And one person in particular?
Absolutely not the reason to look forward to this day.
The biggest lie of all.
She was almost at the end of her tour of duty here at the ass-end of the galaxy, doing what she’d initially considered playing nanny to a planet full of plague-ridden colonists.
That’s how long would’ve passed by the time she got home, back to Earth, most of it spent in cryo—humanity’s faster-than-light drives still weren’t quite able to cut out all the travel time, despite what the R&D guys had been promising for a generation.
Four years out here, four years home—all gone in cryo-induced dreams. It was the two long years spent on weekly milk-runs to the colonists that ate away at her soul. Or it had, until she met Finlay.
“Rapunzel-320. Position and hold.”
“Copy, ground control. Positioning.” She smiled as she recognized the voice. “Finlay, that you?”
“Hi, Cybele. Glad to have you back.”
“What’s the hold up down there?”
She could almost feel the hesitation coming up through the airwaves as Finlay tried to decide how much to tell her.
“Nothing unusual,” he finally said, his nonchalant tone too studied to be believable.
Cybele allowed her own skepticism to come through. “Want to try again?”
“Just a placement issue. And it’s fixed. Send down the hair, Rapunzel-320.”
“Dropping line.” With one hand on the controls, Cybele carefully lowered the telescoping pipeline toward the water facility on the ground. Getting it just right was like threading the eye of a needle with a single hair, even though Cybele knew that both the line and the target would seem enormous if she were to stand next to them.
Of course, standing next to them would mean standing on the ground, and that would mean exposing herself to the Gotha Plague—the entire reason she was here, piloting the medical supply ship that provided relief to the colonists.
Most of the pipeline had unfolded on its way to the ground, and Cybele flipped her goggles over to VR to finish the process, standing and stretching her arms over her head before making her way into the more immersive experience. Inside the virtual reality, Finlay was waiting for her.
“Hey,” he said. “I wasn’t sure you would make it in time.”
“Wasn’t sure I’d need to come,” she said, a smile quirking up one side of her face, even here in the interface.
Finlay rolled his eyes, but he was smiling, as well. There must’ve been someone monitoring the communication system, or he would have said something more openly flirtatious. As it was, Cybele didn’t need him to say the words. He knew she would be here to see him, whether or not she needed to manage the threading process herself.
They worked together mostly in silence, their physical movements in VR translating to commands that guided the giant line into the planetary water filtration system. After a while, once they were truly alone, Finlay called up an image to float in the air in front of her—a silly pictogram taken from a civilization long dead, a two-dimensional representation of a perfectly round, smiling face in an improbable color, with a matching hand waving next to it. It was one of hundreds of such images she had found in a database of old Earth languages.
Cybele had shared it with Finlay early on, and in the last two years, it had become their private language, only partially decipherable by anyone who saw it.
“Hi,” she said, carefully neutral. Finlay replied with a stylized image of a heart, his usual signal that he was free to communicate without any outside interference.
“How was your day?” she asked, now that she was certain they were alone in their VR environment.
He returned an image of fireworks glittering across the sky.
“Work or home?” Cybele already knew the answer, but asking was part of their ritual.
“Work, always.” He didn’t say any more, making sure the conversation wasn’t anything his superiors would be likely to discipline him for.
Not this time, anyway.
Mostly, they discussed the work at hand, the things they needed to do to make sure the Rapunzel-320’s transmissions kept the population of Finlay’s planet safe and alive.
That wasn’t always the case.
Inside the VR unit, their lives outside faded away. They were no longer Terran and Germanian, but merely Finlay and Cybele. Two humans.
A man and a woman.
It was those final categories that could get them in trouble.
As often as they could manage it these days, the drop and transfer schedule brought Cybele and her ship around to Finlay’s station during the late-night shift.
Their respective loneliness had gotten the better of them, so they spent every possible moment together in the VR environment.
These days, virtual reality felt more real than Cybele could’ve imagined before this posting.
About the Author:
NYT bestselling author Margo Bond Collins is a former college English professor who, tired of explaining the difference between "hanged" and "hung," turned to writing romance novels instead. (Sometimes her heroines kill monsters, too.)
You can learn more about her at www.MargoBondCollins.net
The Origin of Snow
M. L. Sparrow
A king searches for a wife and turns to a mysterious witch for help. Will the girl she produces be his true love or his downfall?
Excerpt The Origins of Snow:
Nervous beads of sweat sprung forth on his brow as he approached the witch’s cabin. Dismounting his horse, the usually docile creature’s eyes rolled and it tried to dance away as he tied its reins to the fencepost.
Pushing open the creaky front gate, he hesitated to go any further. An acquaintance of his, a good-for-nothing peddler if truth be told, had told him of a powerful witch living in the dark forest that bordered his lands… A witch that could grant his every wish. He had only one wish.
“I’ve been expecting you.” A soft female voice emanated from the ramshackle old cabin. He jumped and the horse whinnied nervously, pulling at its secured reins. The gate rocked shut behind him and the wooden front door slowly eased open. Out of the dark depths stepped the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen.
Lord White was a collector, a connoisseur of beautiful things. His stables housed only the best thoroughbreds and his vast manor had been furnished from top to bottom by the most skilled craftsmen from across all three kingdoms. It was this attention to detail, this desire for perfection which had rendered him wifeless at the age of thirty-eight. He had inspected heiresses and milkmaids alike, even a princess or two, and found them all lacking. Which was how he’d ended up here.
“You are truly magnificent,” he murmured, drawn unconsciously closer like a moth to a flame, “such beauty, such perfection.”
Perfectly proportioned, her skin alabaster white, lips plump and red as if painted with fresh blood. Tossing her head, sending a waterfall of silken black hair sliding down her back, she laughed in the face of his awe. She knew she was beautiful in that moment, but she also knew that beauty was a trick; people saw only what they wanted to see.
Beneath his amazed gaze, the witch slowly, sensually shrugged out of the unflattering grey cloak she wore, letting it pool at her feet and posing in the doorway, totally at ease with her glorious nudity.
“I assume you came here for something,” she stated, as if she weren’t standing before him inviting him to sin, her own hand teasingly sliding up her flat stomach to caress her heavy breasts right there in front of him. “A wish granted perhaps.”
“All my wishes have just come true,” he whispered, his breath hitching as she tweaked one perfect pink nipple. A harsh groan escaped as he dropped a hand down to his cock, painfully hard and threatening to rip through his breeches.
She laughed once more, the sound husky and sensual, travelling down his spine like a stroking hand. Stepping out from the shelter of the cabin, she walked towards him, hips swaying, the sunlight that managed to fight its way through the thick canopy of trees above making her white skin glow. Shocked by how brazen she was, he quickly glanced around, but they were completely alone, few people ventured this far into the forest. When he looked back, she was standing directly in front of him. Soft, skilled hands stripped him of his clothes and soon he was as bare as she was, shivering in the cool autumn air.
“Tell me your wish,” she breathed against his neck, heating his skin, before trailing her hands and lips downwards.
Once she was on her knees in front of him, at eye level with his straining cock, he gazed down at her in amazement. How could someone like her exist?
One hand expertly fondled his testicles while the other wrapped firmly around the base of his cock, pumping it once, twice, before her ruby lips wrapped around the bulbous head, sucking him into the scorching, wet heaven of her mouth. He bumped against the back of her throat, his hips jerking, trying to push deeper as sensations overwhelmed him. His hands fisted in her long hair, attempting to takeover.
However, as soon as he did so, she drew back, pulling away from him and sitting back on her heels despite his angry snarl, leaving him throbbing with every heartbeat. Her tongue peeked out to rim her glistening lips as she stared up at him. Immediately, he knew what she wanted and part of him resented her for making him say it.
“I want a wife,” he bit out, “a wife more beautiful than any other maiden in the land. I want you.”
Again she laughed, but this time, it angered instead of aroused. He was not a man who allowed himself to be laughed at.
“Well, you can’t have me,” she answered smoothly, rising in one fluid movement that brushed her body against the length of his, her nipples twin flames that trailed over his chest. Sliding one hand up his neck and into his hair, her nails scraping against his sensitive scalp, she stretched up to whisper in his ear. “You couldn’t control me.”
To punctuate the point, her fingers fisted in his hair and wrenched his head back, exposing his throat, making it hard to breath. He felt the bite of teeth and hissed in pain. But then he was free once more and he staggered back a step, watching her with a complicated mix of fear, confusion and awe. She truly was stunning, but she was also right; he wanted a biddable wife who would pander to his every whim and take his word as law.
“I can, however, create a girl to your specifications.”
“Yes,” he jumped at the idea, heart pounding in anticipation. “Do it.”
Frustrated, he cast around for his money bag, which had been attached to his belt. He found it several feet away, alongside his shirt. Pouring the entire content into his palm he said, “Take it, take it all. I have more if needed.”
“I don’t require that kind of payment.” Her silken, seductive voice wrapped around him, infatuating him once more and he turned as if in a dream to see her spread out upon a blanket of autumn leaves, arms lifted sensually above her head, knees open wide, affording him a lewd view of her most private area, pink and glistening. The gold coins fell to the forest floor, forgotten.
He didn’t need to be told twice.
Sinking to his knees between her spread thighs, he wasted no time getting down to business. And what a pleasurable transaction it was.
Twining her arms around his neck, to lock him to her, the witch smiled up at the sky as the man covered her. He wasn’t as attractive, or as well-hung, as the young huntsmen who visited her occasionally, but he was handsome enough with a strong jaw and a smattering of grey hair at his temples. Nor was he as skilled as her huntsman, she conceded; he thrust into her with the clumsy haste of a man with enough money that he’d never needed to learn the skills most men had to charm women into their beds.
Desperately licking at her breasts, he groaned against her flesh as he pumped into her and she stroked a hand down his back, waiting patiently until he orgasmed, his body shaking as the seed was wrung out of him, before collapsing on top of her in exhaustion.
Feeling his energy settle inside of her, making her strong, she gave a little push and he flew off of her, landing with a thump against a nearby tree. Rising, she brushed the dirt and leaves from her body, before sauntering into the cabin, calling over her shoulder, “Get dressed and come inside.”
After he’d recovered and donned his clothes, Lord White stepped cautiously into the cabin. He didn’t know what had just happened, but he knew the witch had done something to him; he’d never spent so hard in his life and he’d never felt so tired after, as if his bones were hundreds of years old. It ached to walk and his head hurt, vision blurring at the edges.
Yet, if that was the price he had to pay to get what he wanted he’d gladly pay it a thousand times over.
Inside the cabin was surprising bright, lit by hundreds of candles that were hidden from the outside by the heavy drapes over the windows and door. He had been half expecting mummified animals and other disgusting paraphernalia, but the space looked remarkably normal. The only thing out of the ordinary was the cauldron atop the large wooden table, bubbling and spitting as if it were hung over a roaring fire instead of sitting upon a solid slab of oak.
Standing opposite him, the cauldron between them, the witch produced a rough, brown sack, the kind used to carry potatoes. Casting one hand over the boiling water, she commanded, “Tell me,” in a voice dripping with power, nothing like the seductive purring of mere minutes ago.
“I want a girl with skin as white as snow…”
Holding the sack open, she gestured for him to reach his hand inside, which he did, flinching when his fingers encountered something cold and wet. Withdrawing with a handful of pure white snow, he gazed at it in amazement, before glancing up at the witch.
“Throw it in the pot,” she ordered.
Swallowing tightly, he did as he was bid, before continuing, “Hair as black as a ravens wing…”
Again, he reached into the sack and withdrew a freshly amputated wing, still warm and twitching. It sizzled when he dropped it into the water.
“Lips as red as blood…” This time he pulled out a knife. He knew what he had to do without being told. Slicing a line in the center of his palm, he held it over the cauldron and watched as it dripped.
“What about her eyes?” the witch asked.
“They’re of no consequence,” he replied, staring hungrily into the bubbling potion.
“Have it your way.”
Gliding her hands over the cauldron in complicated, elegant patterns, she began to chant in a language he didn’t understand, each word seething with power. The hairs on the back of his neck rose and he glanced around warily as the cottage began to shake as if caught in a violent tempest. The windows rattled and the door flew open, a cold draft rushing inside to swirl around them. And then, suddenly, it stopped.
Reaching both hands into the water, unbothered by the fact that it continued to simmer and steam, the witch slowly withdrew something as he stared on in horror.
“What trickery is this?” he hissed when he could find the words. “I ask for a wife and you give me a babe.”
“I believe you asked for ‘a girl.’ She is female, is she not?”
“What use do I have for an infant? Get rid of it.”
Inwardly, the witch smiled. “She will grow to be the most beautiful maiden in all the lands combined, are you still so eager to discard her?”
The most beautiful maiden in all the lands? Who wouldn’t wish to possess such a woman? She could be his, all he need do was raise her as his ward then, when she reached marriageable age, wed the girl. He’d have to wait another fifteen years, but then he’d already waited this long…
“You better not be lying to me, wench,” he warned.
“I do not lie,” the witch responded honestly. Rather, she bent and twisted the truth, a trick necessary in her trade.
Once the sleeping babe had been wrapped in a sheet and transferred to his arms, Lord White turned for the door, but as he stepped out into the cold air, the child stirred and her eyes opened.
Horrified, he stared into large pools of milky white. “What’s wrong with it?”
Already bustling around, putting away the ingredients used for the spell, the witch shrugged, answering blithely, “You did not specify a color.”
“So you gave her none? How can a girl with eyes as hideous as these ever be classed as beautiful?”
Looking at him sharply, she responded, “She will see more with those eyes than any other.”
Suddenly, a hard gust of wind pushed him over the threshold and out of the cottage, the door slamming shut behind him. He tried to re-enter, but it was in vain. Swinging himself onto his horse, he galloped towards the river with the baby held in one arm, silent as a church mouse.
Stopping upon a bridge that stretched across the raging waters, he held the child over the edge, ready to drop her in and have away with all this trouble, but the witches promise echoed in his head.
She will be the most beautiful maiden in all the lands.
About the Author:
M L Sparrow is currently the author of four full length novels, a novella and a slew of short stories published in various anthologies. She will write pretty much anything that pops into her head, no matter the genre, and enjoys keeping her readers guessing as to what she will write next, though you can pretty much guarantee that there will be some degree of romance!
As well as writing, she enjoys travelling and has been to some amazing countries, where she never fails to gather inspiration and has an endless supply of ideas for future novels…
A detective searches for a missing woman called Alyce in the infamous Wonderland Casino. As he joins a game of high stakes he soon realizes that there is more than money on the line.
Excerpt Wonderland Casino:
Wonderland Casino. Many rumors circulated about this joint, but few did it justice. The main room was smoky and dark. I maneuvered my way through the clusters of tables and stopped at the bar where I ordered a scotch on the rocks.
The table closest to me contained eight men seated in a circle, playing cards. In the dark corner at the back, sat a lone figure. The face was hidden, but I wondered if it was the elusive Red Queen. She owned this town and no one crossed her and lived. Only the very wealthy and the elite got in here. It took calling in a lot of favors for me to get in and I couldn’t waste this opportunity.
I pulled the photograph from my pocket, the one I’d been carrying for three months, ever since Mr. and Mrs. Liddell came in asking for my help in locating their missing daughter Alyce.
Alyce had been missing for nearly two years and in that time the police had found nothing. Now her parents were coming to me as their last hope.
Alyce had been seeing an older man when she vanished. A man who turned up in the river a little over a year ago. Whether it had anything to do with Alyce was still unknown, but it didn’t bode well for her, especially since it looked like he had died shortly after she went missing. Word on the street was that he was last seen here and if he was here, then there was a chance that Alyce was too. I knew it was a long shot to find any evidence after so long, but I also wanted the chance to snoop around.
Alyce was 22, with long blonde hair and blue eyes. She was quite a looker.
“Another?” the bartender asked.
I nodded and he refilled my glass.
“Haven’t seen you here before,” he said.
“I’m new. An acquaintance recommended the place to me. So far I’m impressed. Good liquor. Pretty dames. What’s not to love?”
“Well you can’t sit drinking all night. If you want to stay, you have to play.”
“Of course, I’m just waiting for a game to open up.”
“Cigarettes?” a voice said in my ear.
“No thanks, I don’t sm…” I stopped talking when I got a good look at the cigarette girl.
She looked surprised but quickly covered it with a smile.
“Sorry, wrong girl.”
I held the photograph up for her to see. “Your parents sent me to find you.”
She glanced around then leaned in close.
“Alyce Liddell is dead. Stay away from me.”
Perhaps not as easy as I thought. Perhaps she suffered from Stockholm Syndrome or was being threatened. Why else would she want to stay here? I stood up to follow her but was interrupted by a large man in a suit.
“A spot has opened up at one of our tables.”
“Oh, great,” I said. Alyce would have to wait.
As I approached a table in the back, a man was practically carried away from it. Was he unconscious? How much money did he lose?
Reluctantly I took a seat at the table with five other men.
“A new guy. Good,” one of them said as he dealt me in.
“I’m Luke,” I said.
“Eli,” the dealer grunted but the others didn’t offer their names.
Cards weren’t my specialty but I knew enough to play the game. The buy in was $1000. It was all the money I had, but I had no choice.
The game began. I scanned the room, looking for Alyce. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of her, but she kept her distance from my table. I realized that the other men were staring at me, waiting for me to make my move.
“Uh, call,” I said. Shockingly my hand won, my three of a kind beating the other hands. A pile of chips were pushed toward me. I was up $3000. Maybe this wasn’t as hard as I thought.
A few hands later and I was up $6000. I almost forgot about Alyce as the money flowed in. This was more than I made in the past year!
“It’s a trap,” Alyce whispered in my ear.
“Cigarettes, sir?” she said.
“Um, no,” I said.
One of the men waved her over to buy some. I wanted to ask her what she meant but I doubted she wanted anyone to hear her. A trap? Did they plan to beat me up and take my winnings when the game was done? I couldn’t imagine that the Red Queen liked newcomers taking her money. I folded in the next few hands, trying to lose some of the money.
Alyce lingered near the table, watching me.
“I think I need another drink,” I said, hoping to steal a moment with her.
“No one leaves the table once the game is in progress,” Eli said. He waved the bartender over to us.
“Of course,” I said. I ordered another drink and carried on playing.
About the Author:
Kat Gracey was born in the UK and her books focus on her two favorite supernatural creatures - witches and werewolves.
She enjoys reading, Netflix and helping out her fellow authors with reviews.
Keiko never set out to be an activist, but when she’s sent on an assignment to Taiji, Japan, the ball is set in motion. Reporting on the brutal yearly slaughter of hundreds of dolphins, the sight changes the course of her life, because even when she returns home to England she can’t get it out of her head.
Over the course of ten years Keiko grows and falls in love, all the while following the highs and lows of the campaign to stop the slaughter of dolphins in Japan. Through her articles, she examines the reasons behind it and the moral soundness of the supposed tradition in the hopes of bringing it to an end.
Someone had already switched the radio on and she listened to the soft strains of a new song by some up and coming artist as she popped the lid off her cup and leant back in her chair to sip her heavily sweetened coffee, licking foam from her lips.
Susie, the woman in the cubicle next to hers, arrived and called hello over the partition. Keiko listened to the sound of her laptop booting up and then the fast-paced click of fingers typing. Deciding she should do the same, she pulled her laptop out of her bag and rolled her chair closer to the desk. A minute later she was staring at a blank white page wondering what to write.
Thinking back to the documentary, the feelings she’d felt the night before returned. At once she felt as if she could write an entire novel and yet she could write nothing at all. The words were muddled in her brain but refused to flow down to her fingertips. She didn’t know where to start; the documentary had equipped her with an abundance of self-righteous feelings and yet she knew she didn’t know enough to begin the article yet.
As more people arrived, she threw herself into research. Just like the night before most of what popped up at first glance was related to the documentary, however she kept digging and was eventually able to uncover more in-depth information, such as official scientific papers on the lethal levels of mercury in dolphin meat, statistics showing the number of dolphins and other cetaceans killed in Taiji, and several articles predating 2009, as well as a protest in 2007 where celebrity surfers got into the water with a pod of captured piolet whales.
Although the surfers did nothing except form a peaceful, traditional surfers’ memorial circle, the fisherman converged on them immediately, shouting and using wooden poles to prod and harass them.
The morning sped by and she worked through lunch, only looking up when Celine appeared. Sheathed in a tight white dress, she stood in the doorway with a pout.
“Kiki, where were you? We were supposed to go to lunch, remember?”
Swivelling her chair around, she blinked up at her friend. After staring at words on a screen for so long her eyes felt tired and itchy, making her squint.
“I had to go with Georgie from accounting, do you know how boring she is?” Celine didn’t bother to lower her voice and Keiko winced, knowing how gossip spread in this firm.
“I’m sorry, I lost track of time.” Reflexively she glanced down at the notepad she’d filled with looping handwriting, the most important parts decorated with bright yellow highlighter.
Celine glanced down at the notepad too and then at the screen, curling her lips at the distasteful image of a bloody cove with dolphins being pulled out of the water and into fishing boats with curved hooks.
“Ew, that’s horrible.”
“I know right…” she opened her mouth to explain, but was interrupted.
“Turn that off. I don’t know why they even post pictures like that, no one wants to see them.”
“It’s an expose, Celine, the pictures are supposed to be horrific. It’s supposed to make people think and question what’s going on.”
Flicking her hair, Celine sniffed, unconvinced. “Whatever. Don’t forget lunch tomorrow.”
As she walked away, Keiko sighed and rolled her stiff neck. She made herself stare at the image on the screen, bloody and brutal as it was, until her vision began to blur and she had to blink.
Deciding coffee was needed, she stood on legs which were weak after sitting for so long. Up on her tiptoes, she peeked over the partition and asked Susie if she wanted one before heading over to the coffeemaker. A few minutes later, a steaming cup in each hand, she returned to find an email had popped up on her screen. Passing Susie’s coffee over the wall, she sat down and inhaled the bitter scent of burnt coffee, drowning out the noise of the office as she took a moment to relax, looking at the work she’d completed this morning with satisfaction.
After a few revitalizing sips, she checked to see who the email was from. It was Mr. Jacobs, asking to see her in his office in an hour. He probably wanted to check on her progress. She glanced at her work again and wondered if he would think it was enough.
Exactly an hour later, Keiko knocked on her boss’ door and was admitted into the spacious office where Mr. Jacobs sat at his big wooden desk with his back to a window with a view over the city. Fellow high-rises pierced the cloudy grey sky and if you peered into the distance you could make out a slice of the London Eye between two buildings.
Mr. Jacobs was on the phone, but he waved her inside and, covering the speaker for a moment, said, “Sit, sit. I’ll only be a minute.”
Doing as instructed, she crossed her ankles and adjusted her skirt.
Almost ten minutes later, he hung up and turned to her. “Sorry that took so long. Business calls always overrun.” He said the last as if she hadn’t just listened to him talking about golf and arranging to meet for drinks.
Clapping his hands together, he exclaimed, “So what did you think of The Cove?”
She’d been anticipating this question, yet still didn’t have a satisfactory answer. Strange for a journalist, but she often had trouble putting her thoughts into words.
“I thought it was… barbaric and I was amazed that most Japanese people don’t know about it, supposedly anyway. I don’t understand why this is only just coming to light if it has been going on for years. I was also shocked that they continue selling dolphin meat, even though it is proven to have toxic levels of mercury. How can they be so blinkered as to ignore scientific evidence? What will it take to make them see?”
His lips twitched into a smile, “Perhaps a well written article?”
She smiled back, though she thought it was doubtful. “When is the deadline?”
“We’ll sort that out upon your return,” he answered airily, standing up and walking over to his bookshelf, crammed with old books she doubted he’d actually read.
Suddenly his words penetrated. “Return? Where am I going?”
“Why, to Japan of course! I mentioned it yesterday.”
“No, Mr. Jacobs, you didn’t.”
He waved away her words with an impatient hand, “Oh, well, I’m telling you now. There’s a ticket here with your name on it – first class, no less, you lucky girl!”
Keiko eyed the ticket he picked up off the bookshelf with interest. Of course, she’d been to Japan before, in fact her grandparents lived in Wakayama Prefecture not far from Taiji, therefore, it wasn’t the thought of visiting Japan that excited her, rather the thought of a travelling assignment; her work rarely took her out of the office and never further than the outskirts of London. The more stimulating assignments were usually given to employees with more experience. Which made her wonder…
“Why are you sending me? I’m honoured, but this is a big story, wouldn’t you rather send Joel or Danielle; they usually do the big stories?”
“No, no, you’re the perfect person for the job, you’re Japanese so you’ll fit right in. Besides, this could be your big break.”
The closest Keiko had ever come to being discriminated against was in Primary School when a bunch of girls had run around calling her ‘chinky’ and pulling faces, but now she felt her stomach sink. She hadn’t been given this job because of her own merit, but rather because her parents were Japanese and she looked the part.
However, she pushed down the anger bubbling up, forcing herself to look at it from another angle. She had been given an opportunity, no matter the reason, and she would prove that she was worthy.
“Okay,” she nodded solemnly. “When do I leave?”
Frowning, clearly clueless, he lifted a pair of glasses from his desk and perched them on his nose, peering at the ticket in his hand. “It looks like the plane leaves at… 13:45 tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow!” the word came out as a loud squawk.
“It says so right here,” he said helpfully, handing over the boarding pass and tapped a finger upon the date.
She stared at him in exasperation. “But I can’t go tomorrow.”
“Oh, why not? Do you have plans over the weekend?” he seemed genuinely interested.
“Well, no, but it’s very short notice and… I’d need to pack and…” Trailing off, she bit her lip, unsure why she was arguing. “It’s short notice, but I can do it.”
A smile split his chubby face. “Excellent. Take the rest of the day off and go home and pack. I’ll have my secretary email you all the details.”
Standing, she nodded and went to leave, but his voice stopped her at the door. “I look forward to seeing what you come up with.”
“Thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Jacobs.”
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1. Tell us about your book
Storm of Arranon mixes fantasy, science fiction, adventure, and a little romance.
A forbidden birth. A remarkable young woman. A marauding alien society. The battle begins.
Cadet Erynn Yager just wants to be an Interceptor Fighter pilot like her dad, well, her adoptive dad, another of the many secrets in her life. The youngest in her class, daughter of the commanding general of security forces on her home world of Korin, and her strange, often unpredictable abilities aside, she’s close to her dream and graduation. Once she has her commission, Erynn believes her abilities—reading the emotions of others, manipulating the electromagnetic field around her, seeing visions of future events, and stopping time—won’t be as great a threat as they are now, in academy, under the scrutiny of instructors and resentful fellow students.
In their last effort to survive, an alien society infiltrates the governments and socio-economic structures of Korin and Arranon, intent on stripping all resources, leaving lifeless hulks of both worlds.
Thrust into the battle, pursued by an alien enemy planning to use Erynn’s abilities against her worlds, her secret may be her only hope, but at the cost of her life.
Swept up in a chain reaction of events, Erynn's dedication extends far beyond service and duty. She learns the true meaning of sacrifice.
Along with courage and hope, Erynn finds something unexpected on her journey of awareness and growth.
2. Tell us about the main character and what challenges they face in the book
Well, Erynn’s secret and forbidden birth, her odd abilities, and a politically powerful dad—adoptive dad—should be enough. But no. When the aliens openly attack her worlds, Erynn’s choices, good or bad, have consequences. Ouch! Hey, she’s only seventeen. Now throw in messages from a sentient life form in the made up language of her childhood, a connection to the consciousness of the living Arranon, and communication with dangerous animals, some on her side, others not so much. Then there’s her growing attraction to the enigmatic Fayn of the Anbas Warriors, Jaer, who sees her as a duty, his responsibility to protect.
Jaer, Fayn of Arranon’s ancient Anbas Warriors takes his mission to protect Erynn seriously. He believes that to keep Erynn safe, to fulfill her destiny, is to protect Arranon. A duty he has upheld since childhood and a terrible accident left him feeling responsible for another boy’s death. His sense of repentance and honor drove him, making him the youngest Fayn in recorded history. However, the more time he spends with Erynn, his feelings toward her become more than duty, raising another ugly secret from his past, and his present.
3. Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
Okay, don’t judge me. Star Wars, in a round about way.
4. Is this book a standalone or part of a series and what is next for you?
This is book one in a series of five. Book two, Storm of Arranon Fire and Ice, and book three, Storm of Arranon Allies and Enemies, are published.
A brag moment here - Storm of Arranon Fire and Ice received an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published Book Awards for MG/YA!
Book four, Storm of Arranon Sticks and Stones was picked up by New Link Publishing last year and is with the publisher and editor. In fact, my editor sent me the first round of edits yesterday. Let the work begin!
5. Tell us three things no one knows about you
Hmmm. I’m pretty open. I gave all the secrets to Erynn. I’ll give this a shot, though.
1. I sometimes prefer the company of animals to people.
2. I’ll eat cupcakes for breakfast, but I will have a glass of milk with the cupcake, so that makes it good. Right?
3. I like to watch Judge Judy on TV. She’s snarky!
A forbidden birth. A remarkable young woman. A marauding alien society. The battle begins.
Cadet Erynn Yager guards a secret that if revealed would change her life, and not for the good. Erynn senses the emotions of others, can manipulate the electro-magnetic field around her, bend time for brief moments, and see the future. It’s not Erynn’s abilities that jeopardize her. It’s why she has these talents. Erynn’s very birth as a child of two worlds is forbidden.
When a brutal alien society begins an invasion, sending a specialized team to assassinate a military representative, Erynn bends time, saving the dignitary’s life. The alien assassin takes Erynn hostage, using her as a shield to evade capture. Pursued and attacked, they crash land on Arranon, the sister planet of Erynn’s home world, Korin.
Erynn escapes the enemy, fleeing into the unfamiliar dangers of an untamed, frigid, and beautiful planet.
Jaer, enigmatic leader of Arranon’s elite Anbas Warriors, vows to protect Erynn. Together they try to save their worlds. From their first meeting, her touch awakens a need Jaer thought dead and buried, creating in him a desire for something more in his life. His defenses tatter, carried away by the intensity of Erynn’s unusual energy. Jaer covers his feelings with a rigid defiance, not believing someone as rare and precious as Erynn could ever love him.
Obsessed with Erynn’s potential, the enemy hunts her. In a constant race to elude the invaders, Erynn becomes aware of a mysterious connection between her growing powers and the living consciousness of Arranon, leading her on a mystical journey. The wild animals of the forests assist Erynn, communicate with her. Even the weather seems to interact with Erynn, acting on her behalf, further drawing her into the spirit of Arranon, a world that needs her help. The ghostly vision of Erynn’s biological father comes to her, empowering her, instructing her to trust Arranon.
Arranon leads Erynn to a portal, a virtual doorway to another realm and a strange glowing life form, a collective colony of part plant, part animal. By linking their intellect to hers, they impart their warning. The alien is gaining control and time is running out. With Erynn’s trust increasing, Arranon reveals one last task. Erynn faces the final dreadful and agonizing objective that awaits her if she dares to save her worlds.
Erin Yager has a secret. She is of mixed race and has mystical abilities because of it, including seeing the future. An ability which comes in handy in her line of work. When her deceased father comes to her in a vision she learns that she could save the planet. I liked the character of Erynn, she was tough and knew how to handle herself. Occasionally the dialogue was a title stilted, but overall I think it was a good book and I would recommend it.
1. Tell us about your latest book
In my latest book, “Help”, Dr. Josef Mengele—the Angel of Death—has escaped from Hell! Posing as a physician, he programs his patients to do as he commands, transforming them into living bombs, and ultimately creates a new world order.
Sybil Crewes is a vampire trying to escape her fate. She refuses to feed on humans, pulls her own fangs, and injects liquid silver in an effort to remain “human.” When she discovers Mengele’s terrible plan, however, she knows she must stop him at any cost. Embracing her savage nature, she embarks on a dangerous course of action that will bring her face-to-face with the deadly doctor . . . and the monster within.
2. Tell us about your main character
Sybil Crewes is a vampire in love, hooked on liquid silver and iron pills in favor of being human. She knows she has to give up on her dream, in order to stop Dr. Josef Mengele.
3. What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
I needed a real villain for my book, and I choose for Dr. Josef Mengele because he is everything I despise in a person. He was a mean, sadistic Nazi who performed deadly experiments on children in Auschwitz. He even created a Siamese twin by sewing two little boys together. Mengele fled to Brazil and escaped justice. I imagine he’s now rotting in Hell, well deserved!
The reason why I brought him back as a villain in my book is because there are so many scary things going on in the world with so much phobia for the unknown, LGBTs, Immigrants, etc., and there are still Holocaust deniers. I decided to use Mengele in my book as a mirror to reflect this fear to the world. We must accept each other for what we are and stop the hate and phobia.
4. Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
My favorite character is Sybil Crewes because she’s pretty much like I am in real life—an independent modern woman who believes in freedom and justice. Sybil wants to be human and wants to have a normal life, but nothing about her is ordinary. She fights evil to protect the innocents.
5. Tell us three things about you that nobody knows.
I can’t get pregnant due to a birth defect and that’s something I have in common with my main character, Sybil Crewes. In the book, Sybil gets to know two girls whom she loves like they’re one of her own. In real life, I am a stepmother of three children whom I love and even put their names in my last will. I faint at the sight of blood.
Spellbound: A Limited Edition Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy Collection
Genre: fantasy/ paranormal romance/ urban fantasy
Date of Publication: May 2, 2017
Number of pages: 5000+
Word Count: 1.5 Million +
Cover Artist: Rebecca Frank
Box Set Description:
The Spellbound Boxed Set is a compilation of 20+ Full-Length Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance reads!
Readers of all ages will be swept away by this fascinating mix of existing titles and brand new content, full of pages brimming with faeries, witches, vampires, shifters, psychics, Greek gods, angels, demons, and even ghosts!
With over a million words of fiction, this is your one stop shop for urban fantasy, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, shifter romance, vampire romance, elemental magic, time travel, and MORE from today’s New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling authors!
Although some of these reads may be gritty and dark, this is a collection of clean reads that anyone will enjoy!
Pre-Order Sale Only .99
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The collection includes titles from…
International bestselling author Jade Kerrion
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Joanne Wadsworth
International bestselling author Nicole Zoltack
International bestselling author Rachel E. Carter
International bestselling author Andrea Pearson
International bestselling author Alicia Rades
International bestselling author Sophie Davis
USA TODAY bestselling author Michael J Ploof
International bestselling author Megan Crewe
International bestselling author C.E. Wilson
International bestselling author Kelly Carrero
International bestselling author Jess Haines
International bestselling author E. Blix
International bestselling author Alexis Kade
International bestselling author GP Ching
International bestselling author Gaja J. Kos & Boris Kos
International bestselling author Dara Fraser
International bestselling author Ash Krafton
International bestselling author Jim Johnson
NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Tom Shutt
International bestselling author Emily Martha Sorensen
International bestselling author S McPherson
Book Description Bleeding Hearts by Ash Krafton
Sophie Galen is an advice columnist whose work leaves her neck-deep in other people's problems. Thanks to her compassion, her gut instinct, and her magnetic charm, Sophie really knows how to attract little black clouds.
Marek Thurzo is no little black cloud; he's a maelstrom. Marek is Demivampire, a race with the potential to evolve into vampire. A warrior who's taken his share of spiritual damage, he hovers dangerously close to destruction.
He seeks salvation. She's driven to save him. But what if he can't be saved?
Sympathy for his plight becomes true empathy as Sophie's hidden nature is revealed. Marek suspects she may be one of the Sophia, oracle and redemption of the damned Demivampire. She alone can turn back the evolutionary clock.
All she needs is the courage to face her fears. Can she save him from Falling?
The following is an excerpt from BLEEDING HEARTS Demimonde Book 1 by Ash Krafton
In the great hall housing the Egyptian exhibitions, I immediately noted the change in the atmosphere. The room was cool and dry, its climate controlled to mimic the conditions in which the relics had existed in their native land.
The entire room had been designed to resemble an Old Kingdom temple. The main lights were dimmed while strategically-placed spotlights emphasized massive columns and magnificent wall carvings like sunbeams through temple windows.
I scanned the room. No other tourists. Even better. I meandered, enjoying the rare opportunity to linger.
Craning my neck, I ran my gaze up each of the columns, reading the images, admiring the palm leaves carved at the tops like great stone trees. Eyes toward the ceilings, I turned slowly around, admiring the handiwork of the ancient artists.
What was it like to live in those lands and those times? Could an ancient version of my spirit have been there, stepping barefoot and silently through a sandy temple like this one?
Lost in contemplation, I was completely unprepared for the shock of smacking into someone, bumping him hard enough to lose my balance. I'd have fallen had he not caught my arm. Wide-eyed with consternation, I stammered an apology to the handsome but serious-faced gentleman.
"You are not hurt, I hope?" His voice, deep and smooth, sent shivers marching down my neck, between my shoulders, down my spine.
"I'm okay." I shook my head, too shy to make direct eye contact, wishing I'd checked my hair and lipstick before coming in. "I'm far too adept at being inept."
He flashed a grin and I caught a glimpse of nice white teeth. "Temples are places for spiritual reflection. It is forgivable if your vision was turned inward, rather than toward where you were walking."
His expression softened by amusement, he tilted his head toward the pillars. "Majestic, aren't they?"
I stole another glance at him—black hair smoothed back into a discreet tail, clear light skin framed by long sideburns, strong jaw culminating in a square, cleft chin. Like the other items in the museum, something about him made me want to look closer, inspect each detail.
A subtle flush warmed my cheeks and ears so I quickly turned back to the heights of the exhibition. Murmuring a sound of agreement, I circled the column, stepping a few feet away so I could see both him and the stone. "Do you visit this museum often?"
Furtive glances allowed me to take in more of his appearance a tiny section at a time. Clothing dark as his hair. Long blazer, something in between a suit coat and an overcoat. In one hand he carried a bound book and fountain pen, as if he'd been making notes.
His gaze was calm and steady and entirely on me. Taking a deep breath I permitted the contact of the direct look. My boldness was well-rewarded. His Paul Newman lips brought to mind the sculptured busts on display in the Greco-Roman Quarters and he wore a stern expression that cast a veil of hardness upon his features, enhancing the impression he'd been carved from marble.
Except for his eyes. The Roman busts bore eyes that were blank and white but this man's eyes were alive with bright green color. Like gemstones, they glittered and drew my gaze.
"No, actually," he said. "My first time here. Although, I admit, I'm drawn to places like this." His voice made music of the words—deep bass notes and soothing rhythm.
"Ah!" I said. "A man after my own heart." His left eyebrow arched so sharply I thought it might disappear into his hairline and I hurriedly continued. "Are you a professor?"
"No, nothing like that. I do studying of my own, it's not a living. It's more of a hobby. Personal research, of sorts."
"Studying past times is one of my pastimes. It's my preferred form of entertainment."
"Mmm." Eyebrow cocked again, he cast a disapproving look at me and swept his hand around the contrived temple. "Would the gods be pleased to know they are reduced to the level of entertainment?"
"I hope so." I kept my tone light. Considering the seriousness of his expression, I didn't want to accidentally insult him. "Otherwise, they'd have to be content with staying dead, right?"
His gaze swept over me and I shivered again as if the touch had been tangible, a brush of fingertips against my cheek.
"Well, I'll leave you to your worship. I mean, your wanderings." He gave me a conspirator's wink. "Unless..."
He hesitated, with a quiet clearing of throat as he tucked his notebook and pen into an inside pocket. "You wouldn't mind a companion? Sometimes one sees things differently when seeing through another's eyes. I would appreciate a new perspective."
I mulled it over, listening to the rain spattering the windows and distant voices echoing faintly from other rooms. Although I'd looked forward to a quiet afternoon, it might be nice to spend it with someone who seemed to share my interests. He certainly was attractive, and his pleasant voice intrigued me.
I realized I'd become used to living inside a shell. This man made me want to step outside for once.
"I'd like that." I smiled at his pleased expression. "I'm Sophie, by the way." I stuck out my hand in introduction.
Instead of shaking my hand, he bent his head over it and pressed polite lips to the backs of my fingers. The quaint gesture would have seemed strange and out of place had we been elsewhere. "I am Marek. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
Fingers tingling from the unexpected kiss, I fought the urge to curtsy. "Well, Marek. Lead me into the past."
His almost-smile sent a thrill down the back of my neck. "That's exactly the sort of thing I'd hoped you say. Shall we?"
He turned on his heel and swept out a hand with a slight bow, indicating the archway to another exhibit. For the first time since I'd been coming to this museum, I wondered what I'd see on the other side, and was surprised to realize I wasn't afraid to find out.
The first chapters of books by each featured author are also available in the Spellbound Sampler, available on Wattpad
About the Author:
A speculative fiction girl through and through, Ash writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels as well as poetry and short fiction. She also writes for New Adult audiences under the name AJ Krafton. Her work has won a bunch of awards and was even nominated for a Pushcart Prize. When she's not writing, she's practicing Tai Chi, listening to loud rock and metal, or crushing on supervillains.
Most recently, she's re-released her urban fantasy trilogy THE BOOKS OF THE DEMIMONDE because she never really left the world of Sophie and her Demivamps. She's also working on the next installment of her Demon Whisperer series.
Find out more when you visit www.ashkrafton.com
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Sophie is an advice columnist with a habit of getting too personally involved with her readers. She is plunged into the world of Demivampires after meeting Marek. He thinks she is his savior but she isn't so sure.
I think Sophie comes off as a compassionate person who wants to do the right thing, even when it goes against her own instincts. The story was well written and enjoyable, I would recommend it.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”