Tag Archives: Romance

Hacking off the golden hair

What happens when the hurt is too much and can’t be born, not really, and yet can’t be acknowledged for concern of others? What happens when Rapunzel reaches the end and plants the seeds of giant thorn bushes for an acre in every direction of her ivory tower? What happens when she slams shut the door and nails it closed forever; when she cuts down the stairs when she is at the top  of her gleaming tower and then hacks off her golden hair, tossing it into the dark abyss?

Of course she won’t starve to death because the maidens never do in fairy stories. Instead, like the Lady of Shallot, she will cast her gaze on the living outside world through the medium of a cold looking glass, never to glance into the eyes of another living being again. Or will she? Can a dead heart revive? Can a shattered soul come to life again?

Is playing around with ideas when I should be working, but haz a cat draped around my neck and he is too happy to evict.

Work in Progress

I actually have three on the go and all wildly different but only two that I can share a little of as the third is the fourth book in the Shadow Series. I can’t share any of the Staff of Shadows as the third book, Chalice of Shadows is coming out in November. There would be spoilers so that isn’t going to happen. 

This extract is the beginning of Death Angel, a sci fi novel of a darker nature.

The twin suns rose over carmine cliffs to the east, their glow casting long shadows in the valley below. Light caught on one of the surveillance vids slowly rotating above the hacienda, giving the lens a baleful red eye.
Three days of watching without sign of the target gave Azriel some downtime. The controllers didn’t like their angels resting, but either she got necessary downtime, or they would need to recruit more angels from the ranks of deviants. A smile tugged at the corner of her lips at the thought of all the rare metal used to enhance a new angel’s bone strength. The money-mogul controllers walked a constant tightrope between putting fear into the population and causing metal riots. Gods help anyone thought to be squandering such a rare resource.
Sunlight crept over her position and Azriel responded by slowing down her metabolism. She had burrowed under the low trailing branches of a blue-leafed gungua bush for the shade she needed when the suns hit their zenith. Heat stirred a pungent citrus aroma from the leathery leaves. The soft orange sand beneath her formed a comfortable hollow.
She waited for the guards to come out of their bunkhouse like small black bugs scuttling across the ground. Shift change came at the same time every morning for those in the valley. Each of them headed for a post on the four corners of the compound. A short while later the night watchers emerged, stretching. No sign of her mark.
Already a heat haze shimmered on the hard-packed dirt of the valley. Scrubby vegetation struggled for life but the hacienda shone like the most precious beryl in the Governor’s chain of office. Underground irrigation, for sure, and the cost staggered her. Six families could survive for one year on the water being squandered to create a paradise for the rich.
Her thermal suit switched from heat to cooling as her limbs tingled in protest to her internal command. She chose to lower her metabolic rate rather than waste energy and consume more of her own precious water.
Sunshine after the chill of the night brought out a frantic swarm of insects to scour the hillside. They flew in clouds, their iridescent wings shimmering in their search for opening verch flowers. The bugs had a limited time before the sweet smelling yellow blossoms withered in the scorching heat, assuming the hunting kamik rats didn’t get them first.
Another smile stretched her lips. Downtime held a peculiar joy for angels. How angry the controllers would be if they knew the angels linked. The controllers couldn’t use their machines to monitor thought patterns below a certain level of neural activity angels used at such times. She kept her eyes trained on the green luxury below while she let her mind drift. A few hunters in fur burrowed deep in their dens around, waiting for the cool of night, their thoughts cloudy with impending sleep. The contact soothed her, but they were not the contact she wanted.
Azriel, are you still hunting? Coda’s thought patterns connected.
Yes, and I am running out of time. Another two days, maybe.
I found the data you wanted. He sounded smug. The mark is out of her time zone. She is probably getting adjusted.
Why send me in early?
Who knows? I’ve dropped off a grav pack ten teligs north of your last check point. I also clipped it with the homing beacon.
Why I must kill this woman?
Coda shielded his thoughts but his discomfort came through.
Tell me. She hated killing. If the mark was a wanted deviant, it made a difference. The holo image she had memorized of the girl didn’t appear to belong in this category.
Just do the job. We aren’t responsible. We don’t need to think.
Coda? Azriel had a bad feeling about this kill. It was all right for him. He hacked into databases, destroyed corporations and individuals from the inside out. Nothing personal.
She had a liaison with the Governor’s son. He dumped her and now she is bringing charges for a forced insemination.
The mark is pregnant? I have to kill a pregnant girl? Azriel’s pulse quickened, her gut churned.
Don’t try to fight. Remember what happened the last time?
Azriel retained total recall of that kill; a child, a boy barely out of the baby stage, who tottered on unstable legs. When the moment came she had tried to alter her aim to miss, knowing his guards with their heat seekers would zero in on her location once she fired. Without the shocking impact of a kill, they wouldn’t suffer moments of numb disbelief. They could have gunned her down if her plan had worked. But she hadn’t been in downtime and the controllers picked her rebellious thought to the gristle, forcing her finger to the trigger in that second and the ones after. The child didn’t die instantly. It took three shots. Blood everywhere, people screaming, vomit souring her clothes.
No angel had a choice, not with an implant imbedded in their brains and yet she had still disobeyed to spare the child. The punishment for her attempted rebellion wasn’t something she wanted to repeat. Three weeks wired into a pain amplifier had that effect.
Azriel, you can’t put us all through agony again. Coda’s thoughts were tinged with terror. If they find out about us…
All the angels shared pain with a hurt member when they entered downtime. He was right. If she gave under torture and the controllers found out about their link, it would be disabled. The thought of being truly alone terrified her.
One clean shot between the eyes. He wasn’t happy at the kill and this came through. If the girl’s people are quick, they will be able to save her child. You just had orders for the girl, didn’t you?
Is she so far along?
She lied about the conception date so she could travel. I have confirmation from a private clinic. He faded out, his downtime over.
If only Azriel could end her own life, but the controllers had programmed their angels to survive at all costs, damn them to every hell. She shuddered, envisioning the bank of cloned cadavers waited for revivification when this body ceased to perform at the peak of excellence and her essence was transferred to a new shroud of flesh. Five times she had reawakened into hell. The controllers couldn’t waste all the knowledge angels accumulated on retraining skills already acquired.
The suns crept higher and the buzz of insects diminished. Far below a thermal carried the sound of voices and the faint moist promise of water. Three people came out of the main building, a single story white stucco affair. Two men and a woman, all in swimsuits and heading to a kidney-shaped pool overhung with shade trees to the south.
Azriel went into active mode. Adrenalin rushed through her system along with sick self-loathing. The girl’s belly made her ponderous and awkward.
Her hands slicked with sweat as she assembled the projectile weapon. She clipped a telescopic sight into place, its oiled lens creating a stink that warred against the tang of citrus. A girl’s laughing face came into sharp focus. Azriel blinked away tears, rubbing her eyes on the sleeve of her orange and gold camouflage jacket. Do it now, while she is happy. Please die quick. Her finger gently squeezed the trigger.
The sound of the shot whined through the valley long after the girl jerked and fell; her head a ruin of brains and blood-saturated blonde hair. Azriel broke cover. No time to think, she ran to the gullies, sprinting for the crest and her own grav pack. With another transport waiting for her, she’d run this one at full throttle.
Ten ahns more, then five. Almost at the top. A huge blow in her back threw her facedown and gasping in agony. Release endorphins – get out of the line of fire – pack wound with dirt to slow bleeding. Get backpack — fire boosters. The hot wind blowing at her brought more focus. She set direction and headed north, keeping low to the ground where her camouflage clothes against the red and gold surface would give her more cover. Tears whipped away in the hot breeze rushing against her face. She’d pay dearly for the loss of moisture in hell’s own desert.

 

Wildenwold Chapter 3

Chapter 3

“Mistress Ella, canst thee make this chariot stop?”
They hadn’t gotten more than five miles beyond the police cordon. What was he thinking?

“It’s too soon to stop. If you want to get away, we need a good distance between them and you.” Ella gunned the gas, not pleased that he had picked up on her name. And what was with the Mistress thing?
“Please. I fear I shall become unwell.”
Oh fuck, he was going to hurl. All she needed. Ella activated the air vents to blow cold air. There was no way she could pull over on a single lane highway with no hard shoulder. “Mordred, wind down your window. The lever with the round end.”
He did but put his head in his hands. This was so not good. There was no way she could drive with the stench of vomit in the car, and if she stopped, blocking traffic, she risked being charged with accessory after the fact, hostage or not. Would anyone believe her after her performance? Probably not.
“Please, Mistress Ella.”
“I can’t stop here. Sit up and take deep breaths. I’ll look for somewhere and stop as soon as I can. Just hold on.”
Mordred started heaving. Ella wildly looked ahead and spotted a gate to a field. She slowed, driving into the narrow entrance. He continued to heave but didn’t move. What was wrong with him? She flicked on the overhead light. His face was as white as milk and beads of sweat dripped off him. She reached over him to unlatch the door and pushed him partially out. The seatbelt held him from falling while he lost his supper with a vengeance. The rancid odor of vomit hit her like a wall, and she stuck her head out of her window to draw deep breaths. Finally, the spasms ceased. He eased back into the car.
“Is this likely to happen often?” Heaven help her if she had to plan ahead for each lay-by.
“Magical carts do upset my innards.” His head was down, and he shook.
“Look, I’m sure I packed some bottled water. It is in the trunk, and I need to go get it. I think if you sip that it might help.” When he didn’t object, she fetched the water, fortunately, placed in the top box of provisions. She unscrewed the lid and passed it to him when she got back in the car. “Take little sips and tell me when you think you can go on.”
What would have been the best fix would have been for him to walk a bit outside, but that wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t trust her not to leave him. After a while, he sighed and nodded. Ella reversed out of the gate entrance and put the pedal to the metal. Maybe, if she got a decent distance, he would agree to go his own way. He said he wanted a wild place. Fine, she would look out for a forest.
Mordred didn’t volunteer to leave, despite three more sick stops in the course of a very long night. Ella even pulled over when they reached the Devon moorland, hoping he would take the hint, but he didn’t. By the time they had pulled into Falmouth harbor, she was beginning to see imaginary things jumping out in front of her. Beyond exhausted as the silvery lights of new day emerged, she was in no mood to argue.
“Mordred, my boat is just ahead. I have fulfilled my side of the bargain. Take your bag, the documents, and the money and leave me be.”
He roused from a doze. “What sort of boat is it?”
“Fairy Child is a converted fishing boat. She is ocean going with sails and also an engine.
“Fairy Child is Ella in the Gaelic tongue.” Mordred sat up and stretched.
John had never picked up on her choice of name for her pride and joy. Why did it have to be a stranger? “You’re right. However, here is where we part company.” She tried to put all the authority she didn’t feel into that statement.
“Is the boat made of metal, or is it wooden?”
What did this matter? A boat was a boat. “She is wooden.”
“I be a coming along with you, then.”
Damn, and double damn. Why couldn’t she have just said metal? “You said I would be free. You promised I would when I got you clear of the police.”
“I did be saying that I would free thee when thee got me to the place where the wild things are. Thee has not done this.”
With her head spinning, Ella didn’t have the strength to argue any more. She had to get sleep before she passed out. “Fine, here are the car keys. You saw me open the trunk. I want everything in this car loaded onto that boat with the blue paint on the third jetty along. When you have done that, you can wake me up, and I will start her engines.”
She was too tired to care what he did now. Ella opened the car door and stumbled to the jetty. She weaved across the gangplank and somehow got down below to crash onto a berth.
***
“Mistress Ella.” A hard hand shook her awake. “I have done as thou commanded.”
Dear heavens would this never end? Maybe she could drop him off on the Sicily Isles? Ella fought layers of exhaustion to dig for the boat keys in her suitcase. Everything was neatly stacked in the cabin. He even handed her the car keys.
“Can I possibly hope that you can sail? If I get her out of harbor, can you head southwest with the sails?”
“No bad magic? Just wind power? Yes, this be possible.”
The first thing Ella did on reaching the deck was to hurl the car keys over the side. Spiteful and petty, but if Mordred had locked the car it would be an added charge to John’s account as it would not have the keys. She went to the wheel house, turned on the ignition and fired the engine. Gauges and the radar came online. She had a full tank of fuel, thankfully something she always had attended to whenever she docked after a trip.
“Mordred, can you go cast off the docking lines?”
He looked hard at her for a moment before running to do as she asked. The thought crossed her mind of throttling up and leaving him on the jetty, but she would have to back out, and he’d have time to jump aboard. If he didn’t and was captured, there was still her part in all this. She could face prison time for helping him. John would relish that. No, she would dump Mordred only when he was free and clear.
Mordred ran back up the gangplank and pulled it onboard after him. He started for the wheel house with a peculiar mincing gait that terminated with him sitting on the steps to pull off John’s rubber boots. These sailed over the side to join the car keys.
Ella suppressed a smile. Those boots must have been painful. She maneuvered Fairy Child out of the dock and into the open water. Once more, her hands shook, but this time with exhaustion. Ten minutes later and they hit ocean water. She powered down the engine to join Mordred on the deck. He was staring at the rigging, bemused.
“Right, you said you understood sails. Here is how these ones work.” Ten minutes later and he was as proficient as she could have wished and then some. Whatever else he was, the guy understood sails. He followed her back to the wheel house. “Look at this gauge. It tells you where the land masses are and our position.”
Mordred didn’t stir. “Thee said a southwest route. I don’t need the bad magic things to tell me how to find direction or land.”
“You can’t sail without the radar.”

“I have the sun and the stars to steer by. The smell of land and the sight of kelp, and the seabirds to tell me when I be near safe haven.”
Ella started to argue, but the room swirled to a violent buzzing in her ears. The next thing she knew was Mordred gently tucking her into a berth.
“Thee rest now.”
“No, I …” His grass green eyes seemed to expand, and somehow she was in a field of flowers, brightly colored flowers with lots of butterflies dipping down to drink the nectar. The real world receded into nothingness.
***
Ella woke to the gentle roll of the boat into a gray light. A faint noise from the other berth startled her. Mordred was curled up in covers, fast asleep. Panic sent her flying to the wheel house. All the sails were furled, the sea anchor had been let down and the boat was bobbing in the ocean, going nowhere. He must have sailed until exhaustion hit, and then made them safe. The goose bumps on her arms died down.
Silver slivers of predawn sliced through the sky. How long had she slept? A quick check on the instruments confirmed that the boat was on course. Ella exhaled. Her stomach told her it thought her head had been amputated. She went down to the galley, just in front of the sleeping quarters to rummage through the food boxes. Perishable food must be eaten first as there was no way of keeping it fresh on Fairy Child. She took an opened packet of bacon, sliced bread, tomatoes, and eggs. Halfway through cooking them Mordred blundered into the galley with a sleepy but hopeful expression on his face. The sounds his stomach made signaled his need.
He had ditched his cheek pads and his wig now the immediate threat had gone. Still he looked startlingly like John. She averted her eyes. “There are plates in the top cabinet over to your left. Can you snag a couple so I can get them warming?”
“Snag?”
Ella sighed as she flipped the eggs. “Open the cupboard. Take out two plates. Give them to me.”
Mordred followed her orders, and she put the plates to warm underneath the hob.
“Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
Mordred gave her a blank look.
“I guess that will be coffee as we don’t have juice.” She began a brew. A few minutes later she set the tiny table and served breakfast. Mordred inhaled his in record time. He sipped at the coffee, pulling a face.
Ella finished her breakfast and picked up her coffee, satisfied, comfortable, and then her world crashed down upon her head. John was supposed to be sitting across from her. Why had he done this to her? Where had the love gone? The tears started and wouldn’t stop. She made a break for the deck, but Mordred was there, in her way.
“I be very sorry for the grief. I do know I have caused a rift between thee and thine husband. I do swear I will leave thee in peace as soon as I find my place.”
The tears wouldn’t stop. When she tried to push by him, he didn’t give an inch. She had to get away. “It is not you, it is him.” Those words choked out of her.
Mordred’s arms enfolded her. She howled into his chest, unable to stop. His hand gently stroked her hair as he rocked her.
“Whist now, what can I be a doing to make this right? I never meant to hurt thee.”
His kind words set off more tears. Ella struggled for control, aware she was in the arms of a psycho nut-bar. Oh God, could this get any worse?
Mordred steered her to her berth, pushed her down and sat himself beside her.
“It was him.” A sob threatened to close her throat. “You made things worse.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she rocked back and forth, her arms wrapped around her.
“I don’t make war on women. I make war on those who do. Where is he?” A note of steel had crept into his voice.

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Wildenwold

Here is something I am playing with at the moment. It is an urban fantasy of sorts.

“Look, I think it is time to call it quits.” John’s voice sounded crisp, clear and rehearsed on the other end of the phone as if he had studied for the part. “We don’t move in the same circles anymore, and I certainly don’t want noisy brats invading my space. You made it clear that you do.”

A woman’s throaty laugh sounded close to him, too close. Ella started shaking. The room blurred under a veil of tears. A lump grew in her throat. What had happened to her husband? Who was this stranger with his voice?

“I’ve paid the rent on the cottage up to the end of this month, in two days’ time, and I handed in our notice. The landlord just told me it is let, so you need to be out tomorrow. I have also removed your name from my bank account.” More throaty whispers came from the vicinity of the receiver followed by John’s low-toned ‘Hush’.
“I am suing you for divorce on grounds of adultery. Don’t imagine you will get any alimony out of me.”

“That is not true!” Ella’s voice came out in a squeak. How could he say these things to her? She had never even looked at another man since he came into her life and who was that woman with him listening in to a private phone call?

“I have pictures of you with another man, someone who is prepared to come forward. The pictures show a very good view of that disgusting birthmark on your leg. If you try to fight me, I will see to it you never work again.”

He could do that, the big name movie star. He could set people up to act the part, with a little help of Photoshop to reproduce her single blemish, an unusual pattern of freckles shaped like a trident. What was the fate of a make-up artist to film producers by comparison? Why hadn’t she seen this coming? They had been so happy, or so she had thought. Her dream, her illusion, built on the bones of an unknown actor and her with a foot in the industry, meeting and getting together.

“One more thing, do you think you could find my passport? I am flying out to work on location in Australia next week so could you leave it on the coffee table for my agent to collect? Cooperate with me and I might consider giving you a reasonable one-time payoff.”

Money, it was all about money and lust. John had a nasty habit of accusing others of his own flaws in any disagreement. Cold logic began to take over from the pain and shock. He had been caught by the paparazzi with some bimbo. He couldn’t risk his image, so this was going to be her fault for cheating on him. How he must have scrambled to manufacture his evidence. Ella didn’t know this person anymore. Four years of living an illusion of love came down to a moment on the phone.

“I will be gone first thing in the morning. I take it you haven’t canceled the lease on my car?”

“No, I was too late. You have it for one more month, not that you’ll need it for much longer. I imagine you’ll want to go back to the States.”

Ella put the phone down very gently. They were done. It didn’t matter whatever else he might want to say. Through it all the smell of a roast wafted from the tiny kitchen; a supper they were to have shared together by candlelight. The supper he had told her to get ready to celebrate his new contract. Maybe she could salvage it to take with her.

He was right on one score; she was not going to stay on this damp and crowded island, despite the lure of its history. The Tudor cottage, with it blackened oak beams now sharpened her loss. This was to have been their love nest. The overstuffed chintz furniture wasn’t theirs. The place had come fully furnished. She should pack her clothes to make an early start since she didn’t want to see his agent. Move, do something, so she didn’t have to think—do anything.

The narrow stairs creaked when she went up to their bedroom, her bedroom now for just this night. What to take? The tools of her trade for sure, but the rest? Where would she need designer dresses again? She left them hanging, along with her wedding gown. What would fit into the tiny foreign car? Pack the practical work clothes and leave the rest.

Two large suitcases full of clothes later to haul down the stairs and Ella realized she had no idea where she was headed. A person couldn’t simply head to London and jump on a plane. It had to be booked, and she had no money, not now he had closed their joint account. God, did she have to go cap in hand to beg him to buy her a seat? No, there was the boat. Frantic now, she attacked the Georgian bureau for her passport, driver’s license, birth certificate and the deeds for her boat. It was in her name—his gift to her when he had scored his first blockbuster. Fairy Child was ocean going and would fetch a good price, maybe enough to set her up without begging from him. Yes, she could go to the West Country and live on the boat until a buyer came along. If she were quick, she could stock it up with provisions before he thought to cancel her Visa card. No doubt that would be done at the end of the month. Tonight, she had to leave tonight.

Ella hauled the suitcase with her work stuff out to the tiny car, flipping up the tail gate to heave in the heavy burden. Light rain anointed her face with sky tears. Clouds covered the stars and the moon, making for a dark and grim night of driving. She didn’t care. All she wanted was to be away from here. One more case and then put the food in containers to take whatever she could. Yes, she would need that tomorrow. She ran for the door.

A hand snaked out, covering her mouth. An arm wrapped around her, stopping her from moving. Oh God, oh God, nothing more bad, please don’t let this be happening.
“I’ll not hurt thee. Don’t be a fearful,” a male voice murmured, close to her ear.
The shudders came back with a vengeance. If this man was after money, then he was shit out of luck. What if he tortured her for something she didn’t have? John wouldn’t pay any ransom, of that she was sure.

“Pass through the threshold.”

A tanned hand, leading to an arm clad in prison grays opened to latch to let her in. Oh God, a convict. What had he done? Was he a killer, or a pervert? Heart pounding strong enough to break her ribs, Ella did as she was told. Maybe she would have a chance to grab her cell phone, or a knife or something heavy? The door swung shut behind them with a click as the latch settled.

He marched her into the kitchen. “I smell food. If I do let thee go, will thee serve me?”

Something wasn’t right here. Why was he using archaic language? Was this a setup? Would John stoop so low to intimidate her with another actor playing the part of a convict, or was this man a real a convict? How did one manage hostage situations? Ella didn’t know. She nodded.

“That is good. I will be a letting thee go presently. Don’t thee be making any swift movements, or I will not be pleased with thee.” He released her.

Trembling Ella walked to the stove. She dumped the roast beef and roasted potatoes pan on the hob, next to the boiled carrots. What now? Was she to get the electric carver going? What she didn’t want to do was to turn to see his face. If he was a convict, he would have to kill her.

“Thee can get a knife to carve the meat. Don’t try to skewer me with it. I be a warrior and thee might get hurt if I needs to disarm thee. I don’t want to hurt thee.”

Slowly, carefully, Ella reached for the electric carver. She turned it on.
“Odds blood, what be that device?” A hard arm encircled her again. She hadn’t even heard him moving.

This had to be a setup. No one talked like that. Fine, so she would go along with this parody. “You wanted a serving of meat, and I am about to cut it for you if you will let me.”

He backed off.

Ella continued, reaching up for a plate in the overhead cabinet. She had everything now, including the gravy, but how to serve him without looking at him. Was he an actor or not? Her life might well depend on her next move.

“Serve thyself, too. I’ll not be eating alone.”

Ella reached for another plate to serve herself a tiny amount. No way did she want to eat.

“Is anyone else expected to share the repast?”

“No, just you and me.” Crunch time. She couldn’t serve him without looking in his direction. Was John going to get lucky and become a widower? Was this guy for real? Ella took a deep breath and put both plates on her kitchen table. She tried not to look at him, to keep her eyes downcast and then reached into the drawer for silverware. She set their places, still with eyes lowered. Grunts of enjoyment followed.

“Thee not be eating. I did say I wouldn’t harm thee.”

Ella stared at her plate. “Then why are you in my home, holding me a prisoner?”

“Evil people did lock me away and perform black magic on my body.” His voice hardened in tone. “I needs to get away, to my own place. I needs to hide so they can’t find me, and I needs food for strength to fight them if they does try.”
Shocked, she looked up at him. He was a young man, who might have been a blond, judging by his eyebrows as his head was shaven bald. Faint, darker stubble peppered his jaw and cheeks. Once, he might have been a powerful man, but now his prison clothes hung off an emaciated body. Grass-green eyes stared at her.

“Who are you?”

“They be a calling I John Smith, but that bain’t my name. I be Mordred.”

Ella laughed. This just wasn’t real. She had either lost her mind, or he was a very good actor. “Mordred was the son of the mythical King Arthur.”

He frowned, shoveling in a chunk of roast beef, which he took his time chewing before he answered. “Not so. That was a rumor. I be Merlin’s son and his apprentice.”

Yes, she had lost her mind. “Those people were supposed to have lived twelve centuries back. Who are you really? One of my soon to be ex-husband’s friends sent to scare me?

The man finished his meal with obvious enjoyment. He thrust his empty plate at her. “That was good. Could I have more?”

This was getting surreal. “When you have answered my question. Who are you?”

“I be Mordred. I will prove this to thee when I have more strength. Now, can I have another serving of your excellent food?”

Ella complied. She didn’t know what to do with this strange man. If he was one of John’s buddies, he was doing a stellar job on her. On the other hand, what if he was a madman, escaped from an asylum, which his prison grays seemed to suggest?

Mordred wolfed down his second portion with relish. He then looked directly into her eyes. “Do thee have a candle or a taper?”

Ella wasn’t sure what a taper was, but she did have candles. Ones meant to go with this supper. She stood up to get the candelabra from the sitting room, but he was there, breathing down her shoulder before she had reached the doorway.

“The candles are in another room. Can I get them?”

“I’ll be coming along behind.”

He did, shadowing her to such an extent that she wondered about him. Ella placed the unlit seven candle candelabra on the table between then as they resumed their seats.

“There be no lights. Thee agree?”

She nodded. Where was this madness going?”

Mordred lowered his head and shut his eyes. “Watch the candles.”

One by one, starting on the right, they flamed into light. Ella gasped, stunned. She didn’t know what to think. No one could do this.

“Watch.” He commanded.

The candelabra rose above the table to almost ceiling height before it gently drifted down to its former position.

He opened his grass green eyes. “I be Mordred, the apprentice and son of Merlin. Do thee believe me now, or do thee think me moonstruck, like the people in white coats?”

“I think I have gone mad. No one can do what you have just done”.

“I can and much more when I have my strength back. Will thee help me?”

He was serious. He had just accomplished an impossible feat. None of John’s actor friends could have done this, let alone an escapee from an asylum. Yes, this whole thing was a hallucination brought on by stress. She would wake up in the morning to her new, horrendous life, and that would be the end of it. In the meantime, she would go along with this madness. It spared her smashing things or dissolving into useless tears.

“What do you want from me?”

“I need to be where the wild things are, away from people. I can’t be going back to the place of sorcery and torment again.” He reached up to wipe a dribble of gravy from his mouth, exposing a wrist with heavy slash-marked scars slicing across it.

Reality slammed through Ella. She was sitting across the table from an escapee from an asylum, who had tried to self-harm. He wasn’t making sense, and yet the candles …that hadn’t been an illusion, or was it? Just how dangerous was this man, if he were real? She stood, turning to reach for the TV remote. A chair crashed back, and the next instant her arms were locked at her sides by his steely embrace.

“None of that long distance talking to call them to me.” His voice was a rumbled growl in her ear, his breath hot on her neck.

Heavens, he thought the remote was a cell phone. Her world tilted askew again. “I can’t talk to anyone with the device.” Now she had better humor him or else. “It is to turn on the box over in the corner that will show pictures and words from a distance, but not hear any words I say to it. I need to know where the people are who are chasing you. How can I help you if I don’t know what traps they are setting?”

He released one of her arms, still keeping her close against him. “Don’t thee be crossing I.”

Ella flipped through the channels until she had a local one. Halsham manor, a secure mental hospital just five miles away, flickered into view, surrounded by police cars and reporters. The camera zeroed in on a reporter describing a breakout of a dangerous and psychotic patient, who was on no count to be approached by the general public. A picture of Mordred, looking drugged, flashed onto the screen, while the voice reported that he had injured three staff, one seriously. Assurances followed of roadblocks and house to house searches in the immediate area. The man was considered dangerous. Ella killed the screen and gently put down the remote before it fell out of her shaking hand.

Serpent of the Shangrove is live now

 

Serpent-of-the-Shangrove-Digital-Cover-1-641x1024Copper is now a fully grown Drakken, but despite his magical abilities, he is shunned and shamed by his pure-blood kin.
Wandering despondent in the wilderness, Copper discovers a portal that reminds him of his lost crèche mate, left behind when the Drakkens fled their ancestral home. Knowing the portal will only remain open for three short days, Copper cannot resist the challenge to bring the lost maiden to safety, and prove himself worthy of his breed.

But the other world is not what he and his kin expected. The peoples are hostile, the Angressi emperor has not forgotten his grudge, and something is killing Samara Maidens.

In this eagerly anticipated sequel to her bestseller, Darkspire Reaches, CN Lesley transports us back into the world of Drakkens, of Connor and Raven, and of their son.

Deep in the Shangrove—a dark place that feeds on creatures of magic—a new evil is growing, waiting for the perfect mate.

http://www.amazon.com/Serpent-Shangrove-C-N-Lesley-ebook/dp/B01CO4E25I

Ss

And here it is. The official cover release of Serpent of the Shangrove along with comments from Kristell Ink.

2016 looks to be an exciting year. We have some excellent pieces scheduled for release and today we’re sharing with you the cover for C.N Lesley’s Serpent of the Shangrove, her follow-on novel to the hugely successful Darkspire Reaches.
Evelinn Enoksen has captured (again!) the feel of the novel entirely. Nature, lush yet dark and dangerous.

More details coming soon, but for the time being, C. N Lesley has written a little bit about the book. This isn’t the official blurb, but when we asked her to sum up the story in a few paragraphs, this is what she said:

Given one chance to find the fate of a crèche mate, Copper grasps the challenge to save her and to prove himself worthy to the other Drakkens, who look down on him as a half-breed, despite his full array of magic abilities. The other world is not as he expected and the races living there don’t seem to have honor. Then he finds the Serpent, a creature of pure evil. Who will live? Who will die? One of them will not walk away.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMwPuG0FEys