Monthly Archives: May 2015

RED sky dawning ~ Chapter 4

red sky dawning banner

Hi folks.

First off, my apologies. I’ve been swamped and wasn’t able to get Chapter 4 posted when I should. But, hopefully it’s still better late than never. And look at it this way, if things go as planned, you only have to wait another week to read Chapter 5 instead of two! Silver lining.

Okay, here it is. Don’t forget to click on the link below to read Jessica Jarman’s next awesome chapter in her amazing NA story… YOUR LIES. And it is an freaking amazing chapter to this incredible book. You can just click on the banner at the end of the post. And if you’re new and want to read the previous chapters… here you go…

Red Sky Dawning from the beginning…

Chapter Four

“Stay close.”

Rylan eyed the woman in front of him, her voice curling around him—sending a shiver along his spine. Aelwyn gave him an odd look then darted down the path, her body fading in and out of view amidst the gathering shadows. She didn’t seem overly concerned about breaking more wards, or whether she’d be unable to accomplish the task. A fact he found both compelling and unnerving.

A princess.

He hadn’t seen that coming. Had assumed she’d developed a one-sided love for the heir to the throne. The fact Aelrik was her brother… It made her quest more noble. Harder to simply push aside as yet another one of Cane’s tricks. It was obvious she was desperate enough to pay any price to secure her brother’s safe return. He just wondered if she truly understood what she was getting herself into. If she was telling the truth—if Cane had sided with Merek to destroy the two kingdoms—they’d have both armies hunting them. Which made her quest—nobel or not—seemingly impossible.

Aelwyn took another path, weaving them deeper into the dark forest before stopping at a large wall. Ivy and moss covered most of it, with only hints of gray brick between the green foliage. She moved along the border, not even giving him a second glance, her footsteps hushed against the lush grass.

Rylan shook his head. He’d meant what he’d said. She shouldn’t blindly trust him just because they’d inscribed their names on a magical parchment. They were still enemies, and his cooperation lasted only as long as it served his purpose. Which could easily terminate once they’d cleared the castle grounds. After all, spells often reversed once the caster died. Killing her could set his magic free. Unbind him from their agreement.

Aelwyn stopped again. He glanced at the wall. It looked disturbingly similar to the rest of the brick, though there was a slight charge in the air. A hint of power.

She looked over her shoulder at him. “This is it.”

He snorted. “It looks the same to me, sweetness. Just more ivy and brick.”

“It’s just an illusion. To hide the gate from anyone who doesn’t already know its location.”

“If it’s been hidden, how did you discover it?”

A strange expression crossed her face, and he got the distinct feeling she was, once again, deciding how much to share with him.

“I can sense the barrier, and it reeks of Cane.” She hissed out her next breath. “It’s only a matter of time before every realm bears his mark. Like a disease that infects everything it touches. He must be stopped.”

Rylan snagged her shoulder. “How is it you can sense this barrier, yet all I feel is a mild disturbance? One I’d most likely overlook.”

“Does it matter?”

“What are you hiding from me?”

Her lips quirked. “Who says I’m hiding anything?”

“Call it intuition. And the fact you’d be a fool not to.” He moved closer, once again crowding her. “I’ll ask you again. What are you?”

Fear flashed in her eyes before she physically drew herself up. “A mage, like you.”

“Oh, sweetness. You’re nothing like me.” He cocked his head to the side. “Can you control fire, as well?”

“Why would you ask me that?”

“Because I’ve never seen anyone wield more than one element. Yet, you’ve demonstrated control over two. Makes me wonder if you can harness all four. What about water?”

She broke eye contact for a moment before glancing back at him. “Didn’t you just say I’d be a fool not to withhold information from you?” She turned back to the wall at his arched brow. “We can discuss my abilities later. I’d rather not get caught before we’ve even left the castle grounds. You may want to stand behind me. In case the ward lashes out unexpectedly.”

Rylan moved in behind her, still unnecessarily close. But after her display in the chamber, he wanted a better look at her power. See if he could unravel her secrets. And she had them. More than her fair share if his gut was right.

Aelwyn held up her hands, pressing them as if she’d encountered something solid. A flare of golden light shot from her palms, running lengthwise across the air. Red sparks crackled in response, the eerie glow illuminating thick strands woven into some kind of barrier.

Rylan leaned in closer, his mouth caressing her neck. “You saw that? Before your magic bounced off the surface? How?”

She trembled slightly, a rough breath rasping free. “It’s hard to explain. But you could, too, if you knew what to look for. You just have to be willing to learn. To see the world from a different perspective. The way I do.”

He eased back, wondering if she was actually offering to teach him. “Who taught you?”

“No one.”

He huffed. “You’re unique. I’ll grant you that much. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but…if you break that ward, Cane will know.”

“I’m not going to break it.”

“Then how are we getting through?”

Her smile sent a rush of heat spiraling through his core, and his magic surged in response. It prickled just below his skin, giving it a red hue. He wasn’t sure if it his response to her was the result of his entombment or something else—something more primal, more dangerous—but he needed to get his power under control. She may have curtailed him from using his fire against her, but he still needed to be able to wield it with some form of precision.

He chuckled inwardly at the thought. He hadn’t achieved more than a modicum of control before he’d ventured into Aldhaven. No reason to think nearly a century of sleep had improved his accuracy any.

Aelwyn tilted her head, looking at him as if she could read his mind before nodding at the barrier. “Think of it as creating a hole. But I’ll use my magic to bridge the strands so Cane won’t know unless he actually checks his ward. He’ll recognize my marker, but we should be long gone by then.” She turned back around. “I can’t keep it open for that long, so once it’s ready, we’ll have to move quickly.”

“Pretty sure I can keep up with you…Princess.”

She whipped her head around. “Must you call me that?”

“Are you not Princess Aelwyn of Aldhaven. Daughter to King Aern and sister to the heir to the throne, Prince Aelrik?”

“You know I am, but…” She sighed, once again returning to her work.

He brushed his chest against her back, noting her sharp inhalation. “Why does it bother you so?”

“Because it’s a reminder of everything I’m not. All I’ve endured since my birth, all because I’m a…” Her voice sounded thick, as if she’d had to force the words out. She exhaled, seemingly calming herself. “Call me whatever you want. I’m sure my abhorrence to the term only fuels your desire to keep using it.”

He grinned, but it felt unnatural. Despite the anger burning as hot as his fire beneath his skin, he found the thought of intentionally hurting her unappealing. As if his magic revolted, wanting nothing more than to protect her. Shield her from the obvious pain she’d suffer from her own people.

Rylan cursed under his breath. He needed to be prepared for anything. Just because she’d helped him escape—had sworn she needed his help—didn’t mean any of this real. Until they were on the road toward Ravendale, he had to assume everyone he met wanted him dead.

Aelwyn sighed. “You’re not the only one Cane wants dead. Now stop distracting me.”

He frowned. Had he spoken the thoughts aloud and not realized it? Uncertainty churned his gut as her magic sprung to life, casting a warm, golden glow over their patch of forest. The light illuminated the branches, creating a patchwork of shadows across the dirt and grass. Aelwyn stared at the barrier, not that Rylan could tell what she was looking at. It all appeared the same to him.

She moved her fingers along the surface, ignoring the flashes of crimson fire that seemed to lash out at her touch before she settled on an area. Her energy increased, growing so bright he had to shield his eyes against the glare. Her threads hissed as they collided with Cane’s, sending spurts of ash into the air. She kept working, doing something with her hands as the air grew heavy around them, closing in as it had in the chamber. He tensed, ready to strike back, when the barrier shimmered, a single finger of gold light reflecting off it.

Aelwyn glanced at him. “As soon as it opens, go through. I’ll follow behind you.”

“Shouldn’t you go first? I could attack you as you try to pass through.”

“I can’t hold it open from the other side. If you don’t go first, you’ll be stuck here. And I doubt your attack would end the way you envision.”

“So you keep claiming.” He moved to her side, gasping when she appeared to grip the edges of the ward and ease them apart, creating a hole in the energy’s fabric. “How are you doing that?”

“I can’t keep it open for long or Cane will know. That, or I’ll end up breaking the spell completely. Jump through.”

Rylan scanned the area beyond the rift then vaulted through it, stumbling a few steps on the other side before hitting a metal gate. He braced his hand on the rungs, catching Aelwyn when she landed beside him, tripping toward the wall. He gathered her against his chest, her labored breathing loud in the stillness. She sagged in his arms, flickers of her magic skittering along her skin. It danced up his arms, drawing out a hint of his power. The colors swirled together, bleeding into a warm orange before slowly fading.

He stared at the lingering hue. His magic had never reacted like that—seemingly blending with another’s. Even now, he felt a ghosted surge of her power within him, as if his magic had carried it inside.

Aelwyn groaned, her head falling against his chest as she seemed to linger on the edge of consciousness. Her gentle weight clenched her heart. He really could snap her with little effort, her frame incredibly small next to his. She groaned again, the sound laced with pain. He brushed back her hair from her face. Dark lashes rested against pale skin. Despite what he’d said about no man ever wanting her, she was stunning. More so than he’d first realized. The easy symmetry of her face, the soft, pale gleam of her skin—it made him want to dip down and taste the fullness of her lips. See if they were as sweet as he imagined.

“Dark hells.”

He muttered the words a few more times, scooping her up before turning toward the gate. A series of locks secured the doorway, the silver metal caked with rust. He grinned. A concentrated surge of his fire and the metal would snap in two. He glanced at Aelwyn. He’d have to put her down. Use only a fraction of his strength to ensure he didn’t lose control—burn her and everything within the forest. Aelwyn murmured something he couldn’t make out as he propped her against the wall. Her head lolled to one side, a grimace shaping her mouth.

He brushed his thumb along her jaw, cursing the need that coursed through him—demanded he do anything within his power to ease her obvious pain—before pulling back. She was the enemy. He’d be wise to remember that.

He faced the gate, allowing his magic to breathe through him. Heat poured off his skin as tiny flames arced along his flesh. He concentrated on the gate, channeling the power pulsing within him before releasing it as a finger of red light at the locks. His magic hissed as it connected with the shiny surface, shooting outwards—coloring the small space with a crimson glow. The metal creaked, shaking under the assault before snapping apart. The pieces shot out, hitting the brick before angling into the dirt.

Rylan fisted his hands, attempting to draw his energy back. It spiked upwards, lighting up the sky before curling in on itself. Flames danced along his skin, the steady pulse of the fire falling in line with his heartbeat. He savored the feel of it. How it swirled beneath his flesh, heightened his awareness. He glanced at the barrier. Tendrils of Cane’s magic waved in the breeze, the tattered threads slowly winking out. He sensed its presence, now. The dark energy that stained the air. Though how Aelwyn had felt it before using her magic mystified him.

He dragged in a few labored breaths, hands clenched tight as he calmed the incessant strum of his power. He glanced at Aelwyn. She hadn’t moved, her head still cocked to one side, eyes closed. He stepped over to her, gathering her in his arms. His magic flared, rising to the surface again in a show of red light. Hers answered in kind, covering her flesh in a soft, yellow glow. Tiny wisps twirled through his, turning that same orange he’d witnessed more than once today. Warmth seeped into his skin, easing his power until it settled.

He stared at her. Hadn’t he felt a similar sensation when he’d first awoken? After trying to use his magic against Bearn? Questions tumbled through his head as he opened the gate and crossed into the forest beyond, swinging the metal structure closed behind him. The hinges screeched in protest as the old rungs scraped on the rock, shutting out the castle grounds behind him.

Aelwyn roused slightly, blinking a few times before fading again. He scanned the woods. This was his chance. He could leave her here—make his own way back to Ravendale. Even with the spell, she’d said he could defend himself. Though he’d never be able to use his power against Aldhaven. He had not doubt she could ensure that. Not after everything he’d seen.

He closed his eyes. While he didn’t owe her anything, let alone his loyalty, he couldn’t quite quiet the feeling that what she’d told him was the truth. That Cane would use Ravendale to get to other realms. Decimate the very home he’d tried to protect by coming to this wretched kingdom nearly a century ago. And he’d gladly rot in a cell another hundred years if it meant exposing Cane and securing peace.

Peace.

An ancient concept Rylan wasn’t sure existed any more. Aelwyn had been right. Enough blood already stained the earth between their two realms. He had no desire to see more shed in the name of conquest and power.

He pushed out a slow breath. He’d follow her for now, if for no other reason than to garnish more information about Aldhaven and its defenses. That’s if she didn’t lead him into a trap with Cane and a legion of the man’s warriors.

He juggled her closer as he continued north, winding through the expanse of trees and leafy foliage, heading toward what he assumed was the foothills she’d mentioned. Wisps of smoke rose off in the distance, the smell of fire heavy in the air. He’d forgotten how cold Aldhaven got at night, the full heat of the growing months not yet upon them. Soon, the cool breeze would be a welcomed respite from the relentless heat as the sun basked the landscape. If the temperatures didn’t rise soon, they’d have to chance the odd fire to stay warm.

Aelwyn groaned, finally opening her eyelids enough to look up at him. He hadn’t realized how green her eyes were—like the leaves rustling in the branches surrounding them. Staring at him, her head resting against his chest, she didn’t seem nearly as powerful as she had in the chamber. Skin glowing as she’d held him suspended above the ground from her magic alone. He still didn’t know how she manipulated more than one element, though he had a feeling it wasn’t a secret she’d share anytime soon.

She blinked, glancing around before gasping. She stiffened in his arms, her skin already starting to glow. “What happened?”

Rylan stopped but didn’t place her on her feet. “You passed out.”

She frowned. “I never pass out.”

“I see. Then you fell asleep extremely quickly.”

Aelwyn held his gaze, finally relaxing a bit as she surveyed the forest. “We’re free of the castle? How did you open the gate? Cane had it secured with several locks?”

“Thankfully, you didn’t deem the metal off limits from my magic.”

“You used your magic?” She murmured under her breath again. “How much power did you use?”

“Just enough to free us. I’m not careless, nor am I blind to our…situation. But there wasn’t any other way to open the gate.”

“You should have woken me.”

He chuckled as he started walking again. She was too light. Too fragile in his arms despite her obvious determination. And if she wasn’t careful—didn’t start metering how much energy she expended with her magic—she’d get herself killed before they’d left the meager town behind.

She snorted. “Not sure why you find that funny.”

“Because I shattered the locks, picked you up and walked nearly a mile before you roused. Yet you seem to think simply shaking your shoulder would have solved the issue.”

“Cane will sense your power. He’ll know I awakened you. That we’re going after Aelrik.”

“Something tells me he’d have known that by morning, anyway. I doubt your captain and master’s absence will go…unnoticed. And despite Cane’s resources, he’ll have a hard time following us at night.”

She glanced away, more of those odd wisps curling along her skin. “I can walk, now.”

“You’re weak.” He ignored her huff of protest. “I may have been entombed for nearly a century, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how draining it is to wield magic. And the way you’ve been tossing yours around—”

“I’ve done what needed to be done. My health pales in comparison to getting Aelrik back. Stopping Cane before neither of us have a kingdom to call home.” She sighed, allowing her head to rest against his chest. “I’m surprised you didn’t try to escape. Venture back to Ravendale regardless of what I’d told you.”

“I considered it. But on the off-chance you’re right…”

“I have no reason to lie to you, Rylan.”

“Other than the fact you’re the daughter of my father’s enemy.”

The strength seemed to drain from her body at his words. “Aye. I am.”

Her voice held a sad quality to it that made his chest tighten, his magic heat in protest. His fire surged to the surface again, bathing his skin in a deep red. He stopped. If he didn’t get his damn power under control, he’d burn her. Aelwyn tensed, her gaze meeting his before she placed one small palm on his chest. A soft, golden glow covered her hand, slowly enveloping part of his skin. Soothing cool seeped through his veins, reining in his magic until it settled beneath the surface—contained but ready.

Rylan placed his hand over hers. “Who are you?”

“I told you. I’m very much like you.”

“You’re no mage.”

“No. But people consider me a monster, as well.” She nodded toward the path. “Thank you for helping me, but I think I’ve rested enough. I can walk from here.”

He stared at her, ghosted memories gnawing at his consciousness, before he gently set her on her feet. He maintained his hold on her when she went to move away, his focus clashing with hers. “You can’t hide the truth from me forever, Aelwyn.”

“I don’t need forever. Though you should be careful what you wish for. The truth could be worse than you’re prepared to hear.”

She struck off, swaying more than she should as she stubbornly headed down the path. He touched his chest, remnants of her magic still cooling his skin. More questions tumbled through his head, but he let them fade. He’d get his answers, of that he had no doubt. He just wasn’t sure if he really wanted to hear them.

 

And that’s it for this week. Here’s Jess’ banner to take you to her site. Don’t forget to leave a comment!

your lies banner

A week captured in pictures…

Random time again, and this is one of the wordless Wednesday posts. Which of course means there’ll be less words. Never none. Hello. We’ve already established that I have a bit of trouble ‘shutting up’. I know. Shocking to all.

So this month it’s a week captured in pictures. One image a day for seven days. Now, don’t fall over, but I even have a picture of me. I know, I know. Now, I already put it up on FaceBook, but damn, I almost never post pictures of myself, so don’t fall over from the shock.

Saturday

Sunday

IMG_1248

Monday

IMG_1222

Tuesday

Wednesday

IMG_1256

Thursday

IMG_1253

Friday

IMG_1265

 

 

I’m assuming we aren’t supposed to chat about the images. So let your imagination run wild. Hint, we happened to go to the movies this week. Twice, lol. Now check out the other ladies and see what a week in their life is like in pictures.

Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica Jarman  |  Kellie St. James

Jessica De La Rosa  | Gwendolyn Cease

Damn it Jim, I’m a doctor not a writer…

I’m hoping I’m not the only one who can still here McCoy’s voice. Who doesn’t still recite those words of wisdom, though it’s usually, I’m a doctor not a bricklayer, lol. God, those were the days. Anyway, this week’s topic is…the hardest thing I’ve ever written.

You know, every week, I keep thinking, this one will be easy. Finally, I’ll have a post I can just pound out and not have to fret over. This is not that week. Oh, nay, nay. Because it’s a trick question. The truth is—the current book I’m writing is ALWAYS THE HARDEST THING I’VE WRITTEN.

Though I suppose they might mean emotionally? Technically? Or did I have a broken finger and damn it was just so hard to type? I’m not really sure. I know for a few of my pals…it’s either a genre they never imagined writing (or were told they couldn’t. Oh, how some negative folks have had to eat those words) or a story that’s so dear to them, so emotionally draining, that it’s torn from within, rather than scattered on the page. Me?

I’m not sure I have a real answer for this. Or maybe I have two.

My first answer would be—the first book I ever wrote. Mostly because it took forever and has seen more revisions than a certain pop star’s nose. There’s just something inherently intimidating about your first novel. It’s like pouring your soul onto the page. And it’s hard when you finally finish it and realize that it’s still a long way from being truly finished. Putting it out there, waiting to see what others think of it…it’s a near impossible feat. Until you do it. Then you obsess over how you can ever create another. How you’ve become so invested in these characters—so entrenched in their story—that you’re not sure you have another in you. They’re family. They’re…you.

Then those voices start nattering away in your head. Distant at first, but slowly more aggressively until you have to listen. Have to jot down another idea and voila…your next novel is born. But until that moment, that book, that blood, sweat and tears creation is the hardest thing you’ve ever written.

But that’s sort of a cope out answer. After all, the first time you do most things is probably going to be the most difficult. It’s a giant learning curve. An art that takes time. I’d like to think I’ve matured since those first few stories. That I’ve come into my own style. Not that I’m done learning—oh, it’s a lifetime achievement—but I’m comfortable with who I am and know that from here on in, the changes in style or voice are just refinements. Not complete do-overs. And for better or worse, I’m okay with that. Like music, readers’ tastes are varied, so there’s a bit of a niche for everyone.

So, that still leaves the less generic answer as to what’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Honestly, and this isn’t a lie—the book I’m damn near finished. Don’t get me wrong, there have been other difficult books. But I honestly haven’t had one that is emotionally draining. Not really. Ricochet and Force of Nature were challenging, but I got to the point where I was living the story. Other books have taken longer than usual to write. But this one… dear god.

It’s the last book in my Tombstone series, aptly names, LAST STAND, and I’m so close I can taste it. But it’s taken so long. So painfully long. It’s not that I don’t love the characters. I do. And I know where the story is going. It’s getting the words on the page. It’s almost as if having this final book means I have to do justice to the series. I’ve loved Marshal Law and Forgotten. So this…it needs to measure up. Surpass the others. Something like that. And I’ve been bleeding every damn word since the beginning. I honestly don’t know what’s behind my inability to finish it under a reasonable timetable. All I know is that I’m clawing every word. I’m happy with it, but it’s been a monuments achievement at this point.

Now, had this subject come up a few months from now, I’d have a different answer. Mostly because I’m going to venture outside of my comfort zone and write my first, strictly MM book. The second Collateral Damage story. Yes, I’ve written a few MMF books thus far. But I’ve never not had a lady tempt her men. And this…this will be a challenge to see if I can keep the romance without having a character in it that’s essentially me!

That’s it, I suppose. Hop on over to the others and see what’s driven them to the edge.

Jessica Jarman  |  Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica De La Rosa  |  Kellie St. James  |  Gwendolyn Cease

 

Song Flash Fiction ~ Family

Either I need to keep better track of the time, or days are simply flying by. How is it song flash fiction time already? This month, the song is Family by Noah Gundersen. I can tell you, it was not my pick, lol. Not a bad song. A guy and his guitar. Raspy. But…depressing. Oh, so depressing. And honestly, nothing jumped out at me, but, in the spirit of perseverance, here is my attempt. Oh, and if you want to listen to the song, here you go…

Hmm, it might not play on here, but it looks as if you can click over to YouTube if you like. I honestly don’t know. It shows up then doesn’t, lol. Now, on to the story…

 

“You do know it’s not safe for you to be here, right?”

Nick cursed inwardly as the barstool beside him scraped out, Megan’s lithe form slipping onto the fake leather. Her boots scuffed the floor as she lifted one foot, resting it on the chair’s lower rung, the shiny metal surface wedged against the heel. She motioned to the bartender then twisted, leaning her right elbow on the counter as she made a point of perusing the establishment. Her gaze seemed innocent enough, but Nick knew she’d already identified every threat, every damn exit. She didn’t look at him, choosing to stare at the group of bikers playing pool at the other end of the room.

Nick took a long pull of his beer. After virtually disappearing from his life for nearly a month, he hadn’t thought he’d see her again. And sure as shit not here. Now. “You make it sounds as if I should be hiding.”

Meg snorted. “You should. Took me all of three stops to find you.” She twisted around when the bartender placed her shot in front of her. Megan nodded her thanks, downing the brown liquid in a single gulp before signalling for another. Finally, she glanced at him. “You look like shit.”

“You come all the way from Virginia just to tell me that?”

“I was already in the neighbourhood.” She pursed her lips, glancing over her shoulder. “It’s really not safe for you out in the open like this. I’d have thought you’d have known that without being told.”

Nick glared at her. “If you’re here to warn me about the pitfalls of helping out your illustrious agency, you’re a bit late. That’s a lecture I could have used three weeks ago.”

“I would have given you one if I’d been able to. Unfortunately, I was…otherwise detained.”

“Right. Tell me, darling. What regime did you help overthrow this time? Or did you merely supply the weapons? Weapons I fucking got you, courtesy of the NYPD.”

“I wasn’t involved in the sting, Nick. Hell, I didn’t even know they’d recruited you until it all went for shit a few days ago. I told you. I wasn’t available.”

“How convenient for you.”

Meg turned to face him, leaning in until she’d invaded his personal space. “You knew what I was long before we ever shared a bed. So don’t patronize me by crying foul, now. And for the last god damn time, I wasn’t part of the team.”

“So you’re saying your partner lied to me? Fed me all that bullshit just to drag me in? Because he knew I’d have a hard time saying no when they waved your picture in my face. Told me it was a matter of life and death.” He scrubbed his hand down his face. Fuck he hated being played. But knowing Meg had been part of it… He took another pull, hoping to burn the bitter taste away.

Meg back away, the slight tremble in her hand as she downed her second shot out of character. “Jordan’s a manipulative bastard. I’m sure he told you whatever he thought would get him the result he needed.”

“That’s the best you’ve got? It’s all on Jordan? I thought you were all one big, happy family? Guarding each other’s back and all that bullshit.” He mimicked the stance she’d had moments earlier, hovering this face an inch from hers. “If you’re going to fuck me up the ass, darling, at least have the decency to tell me to my face.”

Her chin quivered as her eyes teared over. She clenched her jaw, the muscle in her temple twitching. “Not sure why I thought you’d be willing to listen. It never was your forte.” She gained her feet, tossing some money on the bar. “Have a beer on me. Then get your ass back to whatever safe house you found before it gets shot off. And stay there until someone tells you otherwise.”

She spun, taking a few quick strides away, boots clicking on the floor. Nick lunged at her, snagging her left arm and spinning her around. She gasped, falling against the counter as her strength seemed to wane.

Nick stopped cold. He’d known Megan for three years. Had been intimately involved with her for six months. And the girl didn’t have a weak bone in her body. She drew in a ragged breath, pushing off the bar, keeping her left hand tucked against her waist. Pain creased her brow, but she straightened, looking every inch the deadly operative he’d fallen in love with. He took a step closer, but she matched it back, her hip bumping against another stool as she shook her head.

“I meant what I said. It’s not safe for you out in the open. Not now. I’ve got a friend watching the front. He’ll shadow you once you leave here. See you safely back, but that’s as much help as I can offer.” Her gaze ran the perimeter again. “Don’t trust anyone else from the agency. I’ll do what I can to make this right, but…”

She groaned, her eyes fluttering closed for a few moments before she seemed to gather her composure. “I am sorry you got involved, Nick. I never would have let…”

Nick covered the scant distance between them before she could move, boxing her in. She held her ground but didn’t try to fight him, dragging in rasping breaths through her nose. And for the first time since she’d entered the bar, he took a real good look at her. Dark smudges stained the skin beneath her eyes, her usual sparkling personality noticeably absent. She’d left her blonde hair down, but it didn’t fully hide the bruises along the side of her neck. A slight tremor seemed to rack her body, which he realized looked thinner than he remembered. He glanced at her left side. Raised patches pushed against her shirt, a few drops of fresh blood marring the fabric.

He leaned in, letting his breath rustle the hairs around her face. “Time to level with me. What the hell’s going on?”

Her lips pursed, another groan whispering between them. “The less you know, the better. Just…go home. Wherever you’ve been laying low and stay there. I’ll send word when it’s safe.”

“You’re bruised and bleeding. Why are you bleeding, Meg?”

“I already told you. I was otherwise detained.”

“For three weeks?”

Her chin quivered again, more tears pooling in her eyes before she blinked them away. “Remember how we were supposed to have dinner that night? But I didn’t make it?”

He nodded. He’d known that was the beginning of the end. That whatever they’d had wasn’t enough to make her leave her other life behind. That he was the only one who’d ever really fallen.

She gave him a genuine smile, reaching up to caress his jaw. “I was going to tell you I’d quit. Turned in my damn badge. Told Rawlings to go to hell. God, how I wanted to be there.” A few of the tears slipped free. “I have to go. I just wanted you to know that.”

She pressed her palm against his chest, but he held firm.

“You want to walk out on me, then you tell me the fucking truth. Where have you been for the past three weeks if you weren’t in the field orchestrating this operation from the other side?”

She snorted. “Is that what they told you? I was overseeing it abroad? At least a few more things make sense, now.” She pressed against him again, huffing when he didn’t budge. “I don’t have the strength to fight you. Please don’t make me try.”

The inklings of fear crawled down his spine. He glanced at her side again. “How bad are you hurt?”

“Worse than I’d like. But not nearly as bad as they’d hoped.” She seemed to force down a swallow. “I’m fine. Not my first rodeo. Now, please…go. And remember. Don’t trust anyone.”

He shook his head. “Not going anywhere until you tell me what the actual fuck is going on. If you weren’t part of this operation… Fuck. Was Rawlings holding you prisoner?”

“This isn’t something I can explain in a few minutes. Hell, I’m not sure I fully understand it, myself. Not to mention the fact it’s not safe here.” She peered over his shoulder then around the room again. “I can’t stay. Probably shouldn’t have come in the first place, but…” She sighed. “When Jack told me you hadn’t shown up for work since the raid. And you weren’t at the apartment… I needed to know you were safe.”

He didn’t resist when she shoved against him this time, allowing her to brush past him. “Megan…”

“One big happy family, right?” She snagged her lower lip, biting at it before drawing herself up again. “Sit back down. Drink your damn beer. Wait four minutes then leave.” She clutched her side, another shiver trembling through her. “If you don’t hear from me inside of a week, go to your captain and tell him everything. And I mean, everything, Nick. The man’s not on the payroll. I triple checked.”

“You can barely stand up. You really think you’re up to do anything other than pass out?”

She winked. “I’ll manage. And Nick…I’m sorry I missed dinner. I was hoping to tell you…”

Her voice trailed off as she slumped against the bar, head bowing to her chest. He darted over to her, pulling her against him. Warm, slick liquid soaked against his palm, and he didn’t need to look at it to know it was blood. Her blood.

He slipped off his jacket, wrapping it around her before cinching his hand around her waist. Making it appear as if he was merely helping her stagger out to her car. He headed for the door, maneuvering them both through before angling toward his Jeep. She mumbled something about him leaving her, but the words faded into a series of low groans as he shuffled her into the seat, quickly closing the door before climbing in the driver’s side. He glanced in the rearview,  noting a man standing off to the right, lips pulled tight, newspaper folded under his arm. He gave Nick a nod then disappeared around the corner of the building.

Nick revved the engine, joining traffic as he headed south. He glanced at Meg, noting the pale cast to her skin. He needed to get her somewhere safe, and not the fucking room he’d rented on a whim. Somewhere…unexpected. An image wavered in his mind, and he smiled. If she wanted him to lay low, he’d do just that—but only as long as she stayed with him. And once she recovered enough to regain consciousness, she’d tell him the truth.

 

So, I’m not even sure if that goes with the damn song. Again, this one didn’t really speak to me. It was just overwhelmingly dark and sad. But, at least I thought up something. Now go visit the other ladies and see their take on the music. I’m sure theirs will be brilliant.

Jessica Jarman  |  Bronwyn Green  |  Gwendolyn Cease

Lie Revealed

So, I just realized it’s Friday, which means time to reveal which one of the four things I mentioned on Wednesday was a lie. I know…you’re all dying from the anticipation. The sheer agony of not knowing. Of wondering how masterful I was…

Drum roll please…

Number 1 is the lie. While parts of it are true, I moved to Vancouver Island from TORONTO, Ontario, not Halifax. I have been to Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s beautiful. I actually quite love Nova Scotia. One of the loveliest eastern provinces.

As for the others…yes I’m deathly allergic to wasps and carry an epi-pen while running and in my purse. Just in case. Which sucks, by the way, as I have very little control over whether one of the little buggers wants to sting me.

Yes, I did somehow mysteriously know about a plane crash that killed a dear family friend when I was young. Not something I’ll ever forget. And still unexplained.

And finally, yes, I am weapon licensed. I still don’t particularly like guns, but figured it was wise to know how to use them and be safe around them. And I have friends who love to go to the range, so…

That’s it for me. If you guessed correctly, I’ll contact you about your free ebook.

You might want to go and check around to the other ladies to see if you guessed right with them.

one of these things isn’t like the others…

Random time again, and this week it’s a different kind of post. The powers at be have picked the topic—three truths and a lie. Now, at first I thought finally, an easy post. But, as usual…it’s never that easy. Mostly because I’ve probably revealed anything remotely interesting about me. So, the whole, lie part…I’m sure it’ll be obvious, sigh. But, here goes…

OH…and I’ll giveaway an ebook copy of any book of the commenter’s choosing to anyone who can identify the lie, which as I’ve said, will most likely be obvious. And I’ll post the answer on Friday! (yeah, had to come back and edit that in because I forget to announce it. Face palm.)

1 — I moved to Vancouver Island in 1996 from Halifax, Nova Scotia. And as I write this I’m freaking blown away it’s been nearly 20 years out here. How did I ever survive winters back east?

2 — I’m highly allergic to wasp stings and have to carry an epi-pen. I’ve been hospitalized once and I can tell you nearly dying isn’t fun. Nor is epinephrine.

3 — When I was five, I knew the details about a plane crash before it happened. Never have figured that one out.

4 — I have both a rifle and handgun licence, despite my aversion to firearms.

 

And that’s it. Don’t forget, if you guess which one is the lie and state the number in the comments, I’ll send you your choice of any book from my backlist. Now hop on over to the other ladies and see if you can guess theirs.

Jessica Jarman  |  Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica De La Rosa

Gwendolyn Cease  |  Kellie St. James

red sky dawning ~ chapter three

So, it’s that time again. Another chapter in my serial, Red Sky Dawning. I’ve got links if you’re just joining in now so you can get caught up. I hope you enjoy this next bit of Rylan and Aelwyn.

red sky dawning banner

Read previous chapters ~ Start from the beginning,   Previous Chapter only

 

Chapter Three

Sweetness.

Though Aelwyn knew the word was meant to mock her—it didn’t seem to stop her treacherous heart from fluttering whenever the endearment left his mouth. That low, gravelly tone sending shivers along her spine. Pooling heat deep in her core until her thighs felt weakened.

Do you honestly think any man could ever want you?

His words echoed in her head, the truth settling like a fist in her stomach. No man had ever given her a second look, let alone attempted physical contact—the fact she was five years past the age of consent and still a virgin was testament to that. And she’d long ago resigned herself to a life of solitude. So why did the simple statement hurt to the point her magic flashed in tiny arcs across her skin?

Rylan’s gaze followed the flickers of gold, his brow drawing into a deep vee across his nose. He cocked his head to the side, his long hair falling across his face. He ignored the tousled strands, studying her as if there was something worth puzzling out. As if he could see beyond the mask she wore the rare times she ventured beyond her tower—the expression that dared any to mock her to her face.

Uncertainty flashed in his eyes followed by a hint of concern before both bled into the cocky warrior openly challenging her. He took a few steps forward, seemingly indifferent to the way Tarn matched his every move, the captain’s sword still at the ready. “If what you say is true, and my father has sealed my kingdom—”

“Of course, it’s true.” Aelwyn glared at the man. “I have no reason to lie…to risk everything to break wards and spells if I could merely stroll across the border.”

Her magic surged, a bright glow illuminating her skin before she reined it in, forcefully pulling it back. But no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to stop it from flickering along her flesh, drawn to the red hue of Rylan’s skin. She’d never felt so on edge, and the way their energy had blended—turning both into a warm orange—unnerved her. She’d heard stories of such occurrences, but they were legends better left buried in the past.

Rylan must have sensed her unrest. His magic pulsed then vanished, his hands fisting at his side as he seemed to push the power deeper inside him. He took a few slow breaths then crossed his arms, looking every inch the prince and warrior of lore. “You do realize what you’re asking of me is…treason. A crime punishable by death in my kingdom.”

She frowned, considering her response carefully. “Returning Aelrik will give both our kingdoms a chance at peace. Surely, that’s worth the risk.”

“Easy to say when you have everything to gain from this arrangement.”

She laughed at the absurdity of his statement. If he only knew the fate that awaited her. “And what is it you think I have to gain?”

He flashed her a devastating smile. “The love of your precious prince.”

“Trust me. Aelrik’s love won’t save me.” She glanced away. “Nothing can.”

“Then why give your life for him?”

“Because he’s the only one who can stop Cane from destroying every realm he can get his hands on. Cane thinks Aelrik is powerless. That will be Cane’s undoing.”

Rylan tapped a finger against his mouth. “Is that really why you’re doing all of this? To save your kingdom? Your people?”

Impatience clawed at her control, another flash of light filling the chamber. “Aelrik’s the only one who’s ever treated me as something other than a monster. For that, alone, I’d risk everything. Give anything.”

Rylan’s eyes narrowed as he glanced at Bearn and Tarn. “Including your life?”

“If that’s what it takes…”

“Then my price for helping you is just that. Once your prince has been returned, you’ll give me your life in return—to do with as I see fit. Imprisonment. Slavery…” He cocked his brow as he waved his hand, a parchment appearing above his palm, scribbled words shimmering atop the paper in an eerie red light. “Death.”

“No!” Bearn stepped forward, cupping her shoulder. “We don’t need his help that badly. We’ll find another way.”

Aelwyn grazed her fingers over his. “We need someone native to Ravendale to get through the barrier.”

“Not if we break the wards.”

Nausea rolled through her stomach. “If I break the wards—”

“Not you.” Bearn gave her shoulder a squeeze. “I understand the consequences if you perform the ritual. You can show me—”

“Death is death, Bearn. Whether by your hand or mine, the result will be the same. Besides, there’s no way even I could destroy the barrier and not have every being blessed with magic sense its demise. That much energy will be felt in all corners of this land and those beyond.”

Tarn stepped up beside her. “Aelrik will have my head if I allow you to do this. He suffered through too many punishments on your behalf to have you simply throw your life away.”

“You think I don’t know the price he’s paid in an attempt to save my honor? An honor that was never truly there. That’s why I’m doing this. If it weren’t for him, my fate would have been decided long ago.” She shook her head. “My life was forfeit the moment I broke Cane’s seal. You both know that. Returning Aelrik might save your lives. Nothing but death awaits my return, whether Aelrik lives or dies.”

“Aelrik would never allow anyone within the walls of Aldhaven Castle to harm you.” Tarn sneered at Rylan before glancing back at her. “I’m sorry, Princess. We’ll have to find another way.”

She tensed at his words, knowing her true identity would only strengthen Rylan’s resolve to have her bow to his condition.

“Princess?” Rylan’s voice held a hint of disbelief. “Aelrik is your brother?”

Tarn cursed under his breath, but she waved it off. It was only a matter of time before her identity would have been revealed.

She raised her chin, meeting Rylan’s stare. “I believe I suggested he wasn’t my lover.”

“You said he wasn’t your son.”

“And you jumped to conclusions.”

Color rose in Rylan’s cheeks, his magic sparking across his skin. “If you truly are Aern’s daughter, then why isn’t he here begging me to see the safe return of his son?”

“Because my father only listens to one voice. And it’s not mine.”

“I’m sure if you tried hard enough…”

“Trust me. Aern would rather die than listen to anything I had to say. He doesn’t see me as his daughter.”

“Then what are you?”

“A mistake he can’t undo.” She waved her hand in the air, ignoring the lingering haze of gold as her power flared again. “Enough. We’re running out of time. Every moment we spend bickering is another mile Merek’s men put between us and Aelrik. Once they cross the barrier, I won’t be able to sense him until we join him on the other side.” She took a step closer to Rylan, chin held high. She refused to give him the satisfaction of seeing her fear. “If my life is what you require to help me, then so be it. It’s yours.”

She waved at the parchment still shimmering above his head, only to gasp when he closed his fist, extinguishing the scroll before her name had been inscribed across the magical surface.

“Are you mad?” Rylan marched over to her, stopping a few scant inches from her face. “You’re a descendent to the throne. But even if you weren’t, you don’t bargain with your life.” His gaze raked the length of her. “What kind of fool agrees to sacrifice their life so readily?”

“A desperate one.” She scoffed. “It was your idea. Why suggest it if you weren’t going to accept my life as payment?”

“I didn’t expect you to say yes.” He carded his hand through his hair. “You should have countered my proposal. You are in a position to make demands.” He chuckled. “Did your tutors teach you nothing about negotiating?”

“I haven’t had any tutors. I told you. Princess is merely a term my father uses to show his benevolence to his subjects—proof that he cares for his poor child cursed by the gods. So if you think you can bargain my life for gain… You’ll have to consider another form of tribute because if you threaten to kill me my father would merely thank you for doing what he’s been unable to accomplish since the day I was born.” She bit back bitter tears, swallowing the lump rising in her throat. “If you won’t accept my life then what is your price?”

“You seem very sure I have one.”

“We all have one. You’ve seen the extent I’m willing to pay for the safe return of my brother. Surely there’s something I can give you to garner your cooperation.”

His gaze moved along her silhouette, a devilish smile capturing his lips. “As a matter of fact, there is one thing.”

She forced herself to hold his stare. “Name it.”

“You.”

She gawked at him. “But…you just said you wouldn’t accept my life as compensation.”

He moved to her left as he raised his hand, drawing a single finger across her shoulder then down her arm. “Not your life, sweetness. You.”

Shivers followed his touch, goose bumps cascading along her flesh. Her breath hitched, her heart slamming hard against her ribs as he slowly walked around her, his finger never quite leaving her body.

She moistened her lips, wondering when the chamber had gotten so warm. “I…I don’t understand. How can you want me, but not my life?”

His breath feathered across her neck as his mouth brushed the shell of her ear. “Oh, I think you know.”

Tarn grabbed Rylan’s arm as the man stopped in front of her again, giving the prince a shove backwards. “Princess Aelwyn is not a camp whore for the taking. Show some respect.”

Rylan merely arched a brow. “I chose to spare her life. This seems like a satisfactory compromise.” He grinned at her. “You warm my bed for the duration of this quest, and I’ll see that your brother is returned to your dismal kingdom.”

Tarn took a step forward, his hand palmed on Rylan’s chest. “You’re nothing but a vile maggot—”

“Tarn.” Aelwyn snagged his arm. She motioned to her side.

“Princess…” His words died, a disgruntled huff echoing off the walls as he removed his hand, stepping back to her side.

She smiled her thanks, focusing on Rylan again. “I don’t understand. Didn’t you just question how any man could find me wanting?”

Rylan shrugged. “Chances are we’ll die long before we make it to the border of Ravendale. And after a century of being held inside this tomb, I intend to make the most of my last days.”

“Even if the woman is me?”

“You’re not like other women, I’ll grant you that.” He laughed. “You wear men’s breeches and look as if a strong breeze could blow you over, but…I’m not exactly in the position to be picky, am I?” His expression sobered. “Is there a problem? Do you lack the necessary parts to uphold your end of the bargain?”

Tarn brandished his sword. “Curb your tongue, or I’ll cut it out.”

“It’s all right, Tarn. How can I expect civility when my father sat upon his throne and allowed Cane to imprison Roan’s son?”

Tarn glanced at her. “You’re nothing like your father.”

“Yet, until a short time ago, you believed I was the evil that lurked within the castle walls.”

His jaw clenched, a weary sigh rasping free. “Aye. I did. The mistake of a foolish man who couldn’t see beyond the lies he’d been told. The fears of stories and legends. I promise you—I won’t be a fool again.”

She gave his shoulder a pat, doing her best not to flinch. Touching wasn’t an act she was accustomed to. “Change takes time.” She met Rylan’s amused gaze. “Fine. If my body is what it will take to get my brother back, then it’s yours. But make no mistake. This agreement is binding in both directions. Dishonor your end, and your life will be the one that’s forfeit.”

She motioned to his hand, her heart thrashing so fast she felt certain it would beat clear through her chest. Rylan narrowed his eyes, once again studying her before snapping his fingers—another parchment appearing above his palm. She stared at it, noting the wording inscribed on the paper—she’d give herself willingly in exchange for his…temporary allegiance.

A shiver trembled down her spine as she waved her hand, brandishing her mark upon the magical scroll. His appeared next before the paper spun inward, winking out in a flash of red light. A lump surfaced in her throat, this time refusing to be banished. She’d never so much as touched a man, and now…

She shoved aside her fears. She’d known breaking the wards and resurrecting the son of her father’s enemy would have consequences. None of which mattered if they didn’t escape the castle grounds unharmed. She drew a deep breath, ignoring the hint of male musk that seemed determined to weave through her senses. She was obviously more fatigued than she’d anticipated.

She turned to Tarn. “Cane is bound to be watching the main gate if he doesn’t have a legion of men waiting for us outside the passageway.”

“I have men loyal to me. I can get you both out.”

“While I have no doubts that you could, we can’t risk anyone recognizing Rylan for who and what he is.”

Rylan laughed. “And what’s that? A prisoner? A pawn?”

Tarn sneered at him, stepping forward until they were only a breath apart. “Try murderer. Butcher. Mad man.”

Aelwyn separated them when Rylan’s magic flared. “Tarn. You’re not helping.”

Tarn glared over her shoulder. “Have you forgotten the stories of his last battle? He massacred an entire battlement of men.”

“Your army struck first.” Rylan pressed against her back. “Killed women and children as they tried to flee the homes your soldiers set ablaze.”

“It matters not. That battle is long since over.” Aelwyn released her magic outwards, shoving both men back. “But Tarn’s right about one thing. No one has forgotten that day. It’s why your father erected that barrier in the first place. He knew there’d be retaliation for the grievous loss. And with his greatest weapon seemingly lost…” She sighed, turning to face Rylan. “Your identity must be kept secret until Aelrik has been returned and Cane’s lies have been exposed. Only then can you claim your rightful place in Ravendale and perhaps find a way to thwart more bloodshed.”

She waited until Rylan gave her a curt nod before spinning. “Rylan and I will escape through the north forest. I can alter the enchantment protecting one of the gates long enough for us to slip through without Cane being the wiser. You and Bearn can meet us at the foothills on the edge of the village. We’ll have to stay clear of the roads until we’re far enough away we won’t be easily recognized. Agreed?”

Tarn motioned to Rylan. “You trust him not to simply kill you?”

“I’ve channeled his magic.”

“He doesn’t need his magic to slay you, Aelwyn. You’re half his size. He could snap your neck as if it were kindling.”

She glanced at the man in question before giving Tarn a small smile. “I’ll be fine. We’ll wait until the moon has risen above the distant hills. If you’re not there by then—we’ll have to leave.”

Tarn slapped his fist across his heart. “You have my word, Princess. Until Aelrik is safely returned, no harm will befall you as long as I breathe.”

“Or I.” Bearn stepped up beside the captain.

She bowed her head, unsure how to reply. She’d never had anyone pledge allegiance to her, even if it was in order to save her brother. “You must both avoid Cane above all else.”

Tarn nodded. “We’ll stick to the ramparts. Avoid the keep. Cane won’t realize we’re missing until daybreak. But once he does…”

“He’ll send a legion of men after us. And alert every outpost between here and Ravendale.” Aelwyn sighed. “Are you certain—”

“We’re coming with you.” Tarn motioned to the doorway. “After you, Princess.”

She glanced at Rylan, more than aware he’d spent the time studying all three of them. His attempt to acquire Tarn’s sword had both impressed and unnerved her. She was acutely familiar with the stories of his power—his skill as a warrior—having read every tome every written by Aldhaven’s historians on the never-ending feud between the two kingdoms. But nothing compared to being in his presence. Feeling his magic strum through the air like a massive dragon taking a breath. Even several feet away she could sense the heat radiating off his skin as he strove to keep the energy buried. Controlled.

Rylan reminded her a bit of her brother. Determined. Confident. Quick to react. But there was something about the man—a sense of honor she hadn’t expected. She wasn’t sure why he’d changed his mind and chosen not to accept her life as payment. He had every reason to make her family suffer the way her father had made Roan. Deciding to bed her instead…

She frowned. Perhaps he thought deflowering her would result in humiliation. In being shunned from any chance at betrothal—at a life expected by those of royal blood. That lying with the enemy would forever label her as a traitor. Not that any of that mattered. She had no future beyond Aelrik’s return. Sleeping with the heir of Ravendale would bear no marker on that.

Aelwyn moved to the door, taking a deep breath as she eased it open, scanning the corridor. Her barrier still blocked the passageway, the golden threads easing some of the tension in her shoulders. At least there wasn’t a legion of soldiers standing beyond it, ready to wage war. After all she’d endured just breaking the wards—healing Rylan as best she could—she wasn’t certain she could have weathered the strain of hurting any of her father’s men, even in self-defense.

Her magic prickled along her skin as she stopped at the edge of the ward, waiting until all three men were in the tunnel behind her before placing her hand on the surface. The woven wall flared to life, filling the corridor with warm, golden light as it unraveled, each strand shimmering then winking out, leaving a crackle of static in the air.

She darted forward, checking for soldiers before slipping into the night, drawing a deep breath of cool, fresh air. Stars dotted the sky, the hint of moonlight shining off to the east.

Tarn stopped beside her, glancing at the open passageway. “It might be worth the risk to seal the corridor—buy us more time before Cane can confirm we’ve freed his prisoner.”

She nodded. “Cane will know I closed it, but…Bearn. Can you shield some of my energy? Cane might not question a surge of your magic.”

The older man laughed. “Nothing can shield the power you wield, but I’ll do what I can.”

Aelwyn looked at Rylan. “You’d best be on this side of Bearn’s ward.”

The Ravendale Prince merely stepped a few feet closer, looking as if he’d just as soon attack them as help. She shook her head, placing her palms on the rock, focusing her power into the stone—hoping to prevent it from spilling over into the air. The sides of the entrance shook, a loud screech thrumming around them as the structure shimmied then slammed together, effectively closing the tunnel.

“Dark hells.” Rylan shuffled over to her. “You can manipulate earth and air? How is that possible?”

She glanced at Bearn, sighing when he gave her a hardened look. “We need to leave before Cane sends some of his apprentices to investigate the disturbance.”

Rylan stood his ground. “What are you?”

She stared at him, noting the hint of concern in his eyes. “The price of your freedom.” She motioned to Bearn and Tarn. “If it’s too dangerous for you to meet us…”

Tarn chuckled. “We’ll be waiting for you, Aelwyn. Don’t be late.”

She gave the men a smile, watching them dart into the shadows near the inner walls of the keep before nudging Rylan. “The north forest is this way.”

He fell in behind her, his presence somewhat unnerving. For a large man, he moved remarkably silently, his steps hushed against the smattering of grass and dirt.

She paused at the mouth of a small pathway, glancing around before nodding at the winding trail. “This will take us to the outer walls of the castle grounds. There are a number of gates, each protected by wards. We’ll use the one farthest from the castle.”

She let her gaze drift the length of him. He was handsome, in a brutal way, his body more massive than any man she’d ever encountered. Bulging muscles flexed as he moved in closer, his shoulders obscuring the glow of the moon as it slivered above the horizon. Her magic warmed her skin, surging forth as if drawn to the slight red hue of his flesh.

His hands cupped her waist as he leaned in, his mouth brushing along her jaw. “Are you sure it was wise to send away your keepers? Tarn is right. You’re half my size.” He exhaled, the caress of air making her breath hitch. “And we both know you’d never call for help.”

She pursed her lips, confused by the shiver of excitement as the sound of his voice trembled through her. His fingers tightened slightly, slipping down to cup her hips.

Aelwyn swallowed, coughing at the dry rasp to her throat. “I’m not afraid of you.”

His mouth quirked into a smile against her cheek. “You should be.”

“I already offered you my life. If you simply wanted me dead, you’d have accepted.”

“For your sake, I hope you’re right.” He eased back. “It’d be wise if you showed more caution where your enemies are concerned…Princess.”

The glow on her skin increased. “And you’d be wise to remember I’m far from helpless.” She motioned to the pathway. “Are you coming, Rylan, or do you think you’ll fair better against my father’s regiment? Not to mention Cane and his men.”

Rylan grinned, slowly releasing her. “Lead the way…Aelwyn.”

 

And that’s all for this chapter. Please jump over to Jessica Jarman’s blog if you haven’t already and read the next installment of her amazing book, YOUR LIES. Just click on the banner below.

your lies banner

 

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…

Okay, that’s not really how I think, but some of you might be “young” enough to remember that commercial where Kelly LeBrock would turn to the camera and say that. I hated that commercial, lol. I wonder if that’s why I’m somewhat opposed to makeup? Which brings up this week’s favourite things thread—beauty products.

Now I suppose beauty products don’t have to be makeup. Actually maybe they aren’t. See, this is the problem. I’m not sure I even know what beauty products encompass. But since I hardly use anything, this is an extremely short post.

So, one thing you may or may not know about me. I DON’T WEAR MAKEUP. Ever, really, unless my daughter is in the mood to do a makeover. Not that I think it’s evil. I don’t. I guess I just got this notion that people should appreciate your natural beauty. That eye liner and eye shadow shouldn’t define who I am or how I feel about myself. Trust me, as I get older, I’m starting to wonder if this is a wise choice. Lord knows makeup can hide a wealth of sins, lol.

Despite this aversion to makeup (and let’s be honest. It’s really because I’m just not willing to put the time into it) I do believe in healthy looking skin and trying to slow the aging process. Now, I don’t know if any of those kinds of products work, but I’m giving it the college try with a few I really love.

First. Dove scented body wash. I love Dove liquid soap. LOVE. IT. It leaves my skin soft and the fragrances you can get. Damn, there’s something about knowing you smell good that makes me feel confident. Pretty, even. Like a favourite perfume. I also love that Dove doesn’t leave that sticky, filmy feeling. So yeah, this is one of my favourite beauty products. To the point, I ensure I always have a backup one stored away.

Clairol Preference Hair Colour. I’m not going to even try to deny I colour my hair. I do. Because I personally don’t like grey. Or silver or white or whatever you want to call the lack of pigment in your hair. It makes me feel old. I’m not saying that I don’t like grey hair on others or that it’s not pretty. I just don’t like it for me, lol. Issues, people. Lots and lots of secret issues.

Lastly, I do have a skin regiment that I love. It’s Derm Exclusive by Beachbody. And why is no one surprised that I love a Beachbody product? But I really do love this stuff. Now, I’m not sure if it’s helping with aging skin or preventing it, or slowing it or anything. But it leaves my skin soft and it makes me feel better about it. So whether it helps with wrinkles (that word. I hate that word) or not, I love the way it makes my skin look. And there’s a sunscreen moisturizer included, and we all know that not exposing your skin to the harsh rays of the sun for prolonged time means less visible aging, right? I get my dose of vitamin D during my morning run. Before the sun is nasty, lol.

And that’s really it. I sometimes might use lip balm…hint, there’s one included in the Beachbody set, too, but I do like other lip balms. Blistix is one of my fave… Now I’m sure the other ladies have far more exciting products. Hop on over and see what they have to say.

Jessica  |  Bronwyn |  (other)  Jessica  |  Jenny  |  Paige  |  Gwendolyn  |  Kellie

a picture’s worth a thousand words—May

It’s the first Monday in May, which means it’s flash picture time. I have to say, these and the song flash fiction posts—while probably the hardest and most time consuming—are my favorite. Now, they wouldn’t be quite so in depth if I could learn to just write a short bit. But, we all know that’s just not me. And the reality is…I don’t care that it’s a flash fiction. I’m not going to compromise what’s in my head because it’s not necessarily part of a book, lol. Though this one…

Anyway, here’s the photo…

05-2015 - StreetLampBlueDoor

 

So, I wasn’t sure what to do, then damn it, what popped into my head was another scene between Kei and Gabriel. My fire mage and accidentally summoned angel. And since I’ve left this to Sunday yet again, I’m going with it. If you want to read the first bit, you can find it at this post… Key and Gabriel part 1. It’s not required, but some folks don’t like starting anywhere but the beginning. Otherwise, I hope you enjoy…

 

“Oh for fuck’s sake, Gabriel. Don’t stand near the damn lamplight. We’re in the middle of town. Do you want everyone to see you?”

Gabriel glared at the man standing off to his right. Kei. A fire mage, or so he claimed. Gabe still wasn’t convinced the guy wasn’t a demon posing as something less evil. Less dark. Not that it mattered. Most of the sorcerers he’d met walked a fine line when it came to moral fortitude, usually straying into the shadows rather than staying in the light. And Gabe wasn’t getting his hopes up that Kei was any different.

Gabriel crossed his arms on his chest. “Unlike you, Mage, I don’t make a habit of skulking in the dark.”

Kei cocked an eyebrow at him, his gaze traveling the length of Gabe’s body. “Then mask your damn wings and put on the shirt I gave you, unless you like walking around with nothing but some pants covering you.” He snorted. “I thought you angels were all about secrecy? Hiding what you were and some bullshit? Not messing with humans.” He waved at him. “Anyone with half a brain can tell those wings are real. Fuck, they’re practically glowing.”

Gabe clenched his jaw. While he knew the other man wasn’t a match for his sheer power, Gabe didn’t want to confess it required every bit of strength he had just to walk. If he admitted how weak he felt, it’d give Kei a chance to overtake him. Use some ancient spell to steal Gabe’s grace.

He firmed his stance. “I wasn’t the one who orchestrated all of this.”

“And I was? As I’ve told you more than a dozen times, I summoned a blood demon. Blame this unfortunate pairing on a higher power than me, buddy, because I did everything right. Something else intervened.” He snorted. “Poetic justice, I suppose. Obviously, my life wasn’t fucked up enough, already.”

“So you claim, and I doubt your shirt will fit.”

“Leave the damn sides open if you have to. That’s better than what you’ve got. Which is nothing. Now hide your damn wings and get out of the light until I can get us somewhere safe for the night.”

Gabe muttered under his breath, moving away from the soft glow of the streetlight, stopping just past a blue door. Darkness gathered around him, and he resisted the urge to brighten it with a hint of his power. Chase away the evil that lurked in the hidden recesses of this world—even if he was the only one who felt it.

He glanced at Kei. The man hadn’t stopped scouring the street and surrounding buildings since they’d left the cemetery. As if he were searching for something. Someone. Though it didn’t look as if the mage was hoping to find it. In fact, the sorcerer seemed…restless.

Gabe turned away. He didn’t need to fuel the connection between them any more than it already was. Strengthen the link created by Kei’s spell. It was a byproduct of the summoning—a fusion of Kei’s life-force with his own. And the only reason Gabe had survived the ordeal. No wonder the other man appeared weak. Gabe could only imagine how much of his power Kei had given in the hopes of gaining his prize. It also meant Gabe was more than tied to the man. Gabe was bound. Physically. Emotionally.

His cock stirred within the confines of the denim Kei had given him. Just Gabe’s luck, the sorcerer would have called to him before the spell. Long tousled brown hair that hung in an unruly mess about his head. Strong, rippling muscles that seemed to flex with every small movement. The man looked more like a warrior than a sorcerer, his shoulders nearly as wide as Gabe’s. But it was the Kei’s eyes that intrigued Gabe the most. Deep green, they rivaled the color of the leaves that rustled in the wind beside the sacred pool. The kind of gaze that drew Gabe in and refused to let go.

Gabe shook away the thoughts. Obviously having Kei’s power pulse inside him… It was more than distracting. It was dangerous. And a road Gabe couldn’t travel. Especially if the man lived up to Gabe’s assumptions.

Merrick.

Gabe prayed Kei was wrong. That once Gabe had regained his power, Kei would reveal the truth. One that didn’t involve a man he’d once called brother. A man he’d thought had perished centuries ago. Though if Kei was telling the truth…

Kei grabbed his wrist and yanked him farther into the grayed shadows, snapping Gabe back. The mage chuckled. “You are one stubborn bastard, aren’t you?” He shook his head. “Your wings.”

Gabriel took a deep breath, mentally assessing if he could spare the energy to make the glimmer work, when Kei tugged him against his chest, before he spun, shoving Gabe’s back against the wall as he palmed the surface on either side of Gabe’s body. Kei pressed in close, sparring a quick glance over his shoulder before turning back to Gabe.

The mage leaned in, his breath caressing Gabe’s jaw. “Put you hands on my waist and look as if you want to pull me even closer.”

“What the…get off me—”

Kei silenced him with a brush of his mouth over his. “There’s a water demon at the end of the street, and I sure as shit don’t have the power to go up against it right now. And with you practically casting a fucking spotlight on the fact you’re an angel…” He looked over his shoulder again. “It’d be best for both of us if it just continued on its way. Didn’t give us a second glance. And there’s nothing like public shows of affection to make people uncomfortable. Even folks possessed by demons.”

Gabe stiffened. He didn’t have the strength to wage a battle. Not yet. Hell, he couldn’t even put up a glimmer.

Kei eased back ever so slightly. “I can still see your wings, Gabe. You got a death wish I’m unaware of?” Kei stared at him, then huffed. “Shit, you can’t, can you? You’re not strong enough.”

Gabe sneered at him. “Despite how it might appear, casting a convincing glimmer to hide my purity is extremely taxing. A feat requiring a great deal of power. Normally, I can toss one up without thinking about it—”

“But you’re out of juice. Fuck.” Kei sparred a quick peek down the street. “Damn it, it’s still coming this way. And there’s nowhere else to go.” He met Gabe’s stare. “Two choices. I challenge it, or I give you the energy you need to hide those damn feathers. Pray it walks past. Either way, I won’t be much help for a while. I haven’t recharged nearly enough.”

Gave furrowed his brow. “You expect me to believe you’d risk your life for me?”

“Not every being other than your self-righteous brothers and sisters are evil, buddy. And I didn’t exactly ask for this.” He glanced away for a moment. “I hate to admit it, but…not sure I’d even buy you enough time to get away if I challenge it. I’m…” His voice faded. “Oh, fuck it.”

Kei moved one hand to the back of Gabe’s head, spearing his fingers through Gabe’s hair as he fisted the strands, holding Gabe’s head still. He closed the distant, giving Gabe one gentle brush of his mouth before sealing his lips to Gabe’s. Gabe gasped, moaning when the man slipped his tongue inside, tangling it with his. Spicy heat engulfed his senses, followed by a rush of pure power.

Kei hummed, deepening the kiss as more of his life-force curled through Gabe, coiling heat low in his core. Kei’s muscles tensed, flexing beneath Gabe’s hands before the man slowly eased back, his forehead resting against his. Gabe blinked open his eyes as tiny sparks flashed across Kei’s skin, bursting into shards of warm, orange light before winking out. The mage’s breath mixed with his, the rough exhalations matching Gabe’s.

Energy surged along Gabriel’s flesh, swirling inward as he used the power to mask his appearance, grunting as his wings trembled, fluttering wildly against the gray stone behind him before retracting, leaving a light sheen of sweat along his skin. He drew in a few shaky breaths, relaxing slightly as the straining in his muscles eased. He glanced at his arms, watching as the last of his golden glow sank back into his flesh.

Key clenched his jaw, moving his hand to the wall again, bracing it beside Gabe’s head as footsteps echoed close by. Kei held firm, shifting his eyes slightly as a man moved into view beyond Kei’s shoulder. They guy glanced at them, frowning as he mumbled something under his breath, turning away in seeming disgust. A shudder raced along Kei’s limbs as his head bowed forward.

Gabe pushed against the man’s chest. “You can move, now.”

Kei lifted his head, pain creasing the edges of his mouth. “Wait until it’s out of sight.”

Gabe pursed his lips, looking up the street, waiting until the stranger had crossed the road and disappeared down another alley. He let his head fall against the building, raising his brow in question. “That good enough for you?”

“Must you be such an ass?” Kei twisted, obviously checking for himself, before he nodded. “We should try to avoid any further contact until we’re able to hold our own.”

“There’s no us once I regain my strength.”

Kei flashed him a cocky grin. “I never said there was. I was merely making a suggestion.” He grunted, shoulders slumping. “How long can you hold that glimmer?”

“A while.” Gabe sighed. He wouldn’t be feeling half as strong if the other man hadn’t given up more of his energy. He surveyed the sorcerer. “You okay?”

Kei shoved off the wall, taking half a dozen shaky steps back. “Fine. But we’ve still got a few more blocks to go before we reach my place. We should head out.” He turned, tripping onto one knee—his hand smacking the pavement as it bridged the rest of his weight.

Gabe darted over to him, kneeling at his side. He brushed back the man’s messy locks, frowning at Kei’s obvious pain. “You gave me too much.”

Kei snorted. “You needed to mask your appearance. What good is holding some back if we’re both dead?”

“What if that demon had recognized me for what I am?”

“Then I’d be dead, and it still wouldn’t matter.”

Gabe blew out a long breath. “Why did you help me? You could have run.”

Kei glanced at him, the smugness Gabe had expected to see in Kei’s expression noticeably absent. “I’m far from innocent, but even I don’t want the blood of an angel on my conscience. Especially since you’re here because of me.” He drew in a few ragged pants. “You should go ahead. I’ll follow when I can.”

Gabe cocked his brow. “I still think you’re hiding the truth from me, Mage, but…” He wrapped his arm under Kei’s, levering him up. “I’ll help you get to this refuge you seek. Payback for what you did.”

Kei grunted, the strain to simply move his feet forward painfully obvious. “And here I thought you were still pissed because I’d summoned you.”

“You didn’t have to give me your power. It was actually quite foolish, considering I could kill you with nothing more than my hands right now.”

“You. Merrick. My future seems to hold the same end, regardless.”

Gabe, studied Kei. If the man was lying about Merrick’s involvment, Gabe certainly couldn’t sense it. Though that didn’t mean Kei was honorable. Or even trying to do as he’d claimed.

Gabe balanced their weight as they moved slowly along the sideway. “Thank you.”

Kei chuckled. “Don’t thank me, yet. Shit could still go wrong.”

Gabe sighed, ignoring the way the man’s body felt dangerously right against his. This was nothing more than erasing a debt. Helping someone in return for their kindness. It didn’t mean anything. And it sure as hell didn’t mean Gabe was hanging around. That he cared.

 

And that’s it for me. Now bounce on over to the other ladies and see what stroke of genius they created this week.

Jessica Jarman  |  Bronwyn Green  |  Jessica De La Rosa

Gwendolyn Cease  |  Kayleigh Jones  |  Kellie St. James