Showing posts with label New Release. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Release. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Happy Endings Book Club Boxed Set (Book 1-3) Kylie Gilmore - Book Blitz - Special ¢99 Special Offer for a Limited Time







Happy Endings Book Club Boxed Set Books 1-3
Kylie Gilmore
Publication date: January 10th 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Book 1: Hidden Hollywood

She’s on top…

When superstar actress Claire Jordan researched her role for the Fierce Trilogy movies, she never expected the bond she feels with the author and her romance book club aka The Happy Endings Book Club. Soon Claire finds herself confessing her secret longing for a regular guy—no more egocentric wealthy players—and the book club is all too ready to help. In disguise as a regular girl, she’s all set for a date with book-club-approved Josh Campbell.

He’s on top…

Billionaire tech CEO Jake Campbell is weary of gold-digging women, especially the glamorous superficial types. So when his identical twin, Josh, calls in a favor, asking Jake to step in as him on a date, Jake figures one of Josh’s cute girl-next-door types might be just what he needs. One night of passion with the sweet girl next door leaves Jake wanting more, except she seems to have vanished.

Sometimes a Happy Ending is just the beginning.

Book 2: Inviting Trouble

Madison Campbell has worshipped her older brother’s best friend, Parker Shaw, for as long as she can remember. So the night before he leaves for the Air Force, she decides he’s leaving town with her virginity. All she has to do is transform her tomboy self into a sexy woman with a bit of borrowed makeup and some creative fashion choices. The results? One drunken kiss that Park doesn’t even remember.

Ten years later, no man has ever gotten close to her heart the way Park did. And now that he’s back, the very unfeminine Madison refuses to blow her second chance. But when her bold attempts to snag his attention (“Oops! Dropped my towel.”) fail miserably, she does something completely insane—she caves to a makeover from the meddling matchmaker in charge of The Happy Endings Book Club. Hey, Park, you want some of this? Madison is about to find out.

Book 3: So Revealing

The last thing Charlotte Vega needs is a cocky HOT stuntman like Ty Campbell in her life. But when he pulls the ultimate stunt—a sexy romantic gesture that ends with a charming invitation to a sunset dinner cruise—she finds him impossible to resist. Cue disaster.

Their rocky first date goes from bad to worse when his yacht (okay, it’s actually borrowed) gets stranded in deep mud. Turns out there’s nothing Ty can do but wait hours and hours for high tide with no power, no way to cook dinner, and a hangry sexy-as-hell woman.

But Ty is determined to salvage the date so he starts a game to pass the time. Only what Ty learns makes him realize he may have just botched a date with the perfect woman. How will he ever win her now?

The Happy Endings Book Club series continues with Book 4, Formal Arrangement, plus more!

Happy Endings Book Club Series

Book 1: Hidden Hollywood
Book 2: Inviting Trouble
Book 3: So Revealing
Book 4: Formal Arrangement
Book 5: Bad Boy Done Wrong
Book 6: Mess With Me
Book 7: Resisting Fate




99¢ for a limited time only!




EXCERPT

Hidden Hollywood Excerpt
© 2016 Kylie Gilmore

Claire bit her lower lip. “Dammit. This is why I can’t have real relationships. I can’t trust anyone.”

“You can trust me.”

She sighed. “I don’t even know you.”

“Get to know me.”

“Jake…” She looked away.

“One date, the real deal. Jake and Claire.”

She was tempted. He could tell. She didn’t give him a no right away and now she was searching his face, looking for the truth. He leaned forward, brushing his lips against hers, coaxing. He pulled back and met her eyes, fully prepared to do this all night if he had to. Coaxing, charming, easing his way in. He’d thought coaxing would be too difficult with the way he wanted her, but having her pull away was much harder.

She spoke quietly. “You don’t want that kind of spotlight on you. It’s not pretty.”

It wasn’t a no.

“I want you, and whatever comes with it, I don’t care.” He cradled her face with both hands. “I want Claire.”

She closed her eyes, and he dropped his hands to her shoulders, sliding them down the satiny smooth skin of her arms to her hands. He took her hands from behind her and pulled them forward, just holding them. She didn’t pull away. He sensed she was leaning toward letting him in.

Finally she spoke, the words filling him with elation. 

“We’d have to keep it quiet.”

Not that he wanted to keep it quiet. He just wanted to be with her so much he was willing to play the game her way. For now. He kissed her softly and spoke against her lips. “Is that a yes?”

“Yes.” She shoved him away. “Now stop kissing me. One date. Jake and Claire.”

“Why do I have to stop kissing you?”

“Because you want to get to know me, remember?”

“I can get to know your body first. Get reacquainted.”

She laughed. “Yeah. I’ve heard that one before.”

He figured she probably did. Everyone wanted the sexiest woman alive. He’d seen the magazine giving her that honor and her bikini body splashed everywhere. He knew that kind of attention didn’t always bring out the best in people, and he realized he had to stand out from the pack.

He stepped back and helped her off the table.

“Such a gentleman,” she teased.

“It’s all an illusion,” he replied, not bothering to hide the edge of unsatisfied lust in his voice.

“Story of my life,” she said breezily. “I’ll text Hailey to let you know when I’m free.”

“At least give me your number now that we’ve established how much you lust for me.” She laughed, and he grinned. “I’d like to stop going through other people.” He pulled his cell from his pocket, punched in the code, and handed it over.

She typed her number in while saying, “I never give this number to anyone. Only a handful of people have it on a need-to-know basis. Can you handle that kind of responsibility?”

“What do you think?” It was an honor and, hell, he’d earned it with all his restraint.

She met his eyes, fire back in hers. “I hope so. I swear I will hunt you down—”

He cut her off with a kiss. Not a gentle one. The kind that said he’d be taking what he wanted and she’d damn well like it. She sagged against him.

When he was good and ready, he broke the kiss and snagged his cell from her limp hand. “Later, Claire Jordan.”

She fought back a smile and then beamed a big one at him, stunningly beautiful in her well-kissed, hot-for-him state. “Later, Jake Campbell.”

He grinned and headed out the door. Now that was more like it.




Author Bio


Kylie Gilmore is the USA Today bestselling author of the Clover Park series, the Clover Park STUDS series, and the brand new Happy Endings Book Club series. She writes humorous romance that makes you laugh, cry, and reach for a cold glass of water.

Kylie lives in New York with her family, two cats, and a nutso dog. When she's not writing, wrangling kids, or dutifully taking notes at writing conferences, you can find her flexing her muscles all the way to the high cabinet for her secret chocolate stash.







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Love and War (#2 Shadows in the Dark) Charisse Spiers - Book Blitz






Love and War: Volume One
Charisse Spiers
(Shadows in the Dark, #2)
Publication date: February 22nd 2018
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Note from the author: This is a Dark Romance. If you do not like dark themes this book may not be for you. Suitable for audiences 18+ due to content.

The f*cking lights. They are all I can remember. Everywhere I turn I see them. 

They haunt my dreams, and now my reality. She liked the lights. I do remember that. It was part of her life, and in turn a part of mine, until the day I forgot it all.

They say your childhood paves the way to adulthood, and maybe it does. I know mine was lit up in flames. I walked the roads of Hell until I figured out that the only way to survive was to exist under a cloak of darkness—to deal with the devil himself. It was the only way to escape the pain, the torment. But the nightmares are still very real. They’ll never leave me alone. The shadows of solitude follow me wherever I go.

Weapons—they can be anything I need them to be. Unlike people in my life, they are predictable, dependable. Without any effort they can cause so much destruction, but also so much peace. Through the internal chaos, the anger that won’t cease, and the constant noise, everything is silenced with the pull of the trigger.

Ink—I’ve loved it since I can remember. It defines me. It’s my release. When I feel like I’m about to blow I turn to the needle. It is the one high I need. I brand people. It’s what I do. Kross Brannon is the best there is when it comes to tattoos. The success of my company proves it.

But I never teach. Those that work for me learn from someone else. I’m a solo artist. Always have been and always will be…but then I looked up and saw her, standing in my shop, beautiful, tattooed, and her soul screaming for me to reach out. She was a force of nature I couldn’t turn away.

That’s the moment everything started falling into place…







EXCERPT

Delta . . .

I group my tips together and fold them in half. I’ll count them later. Right now I just want to take these shoes off my feet.

Dancing in stilettos sucks. They were not intended to be worn for extreme activities. Then again, maybe they were. I prefer chucks, high tops . . . Hell, anything flat.

These are more Lux’s style.

I’m sweating; burning up, even though I know Chuck keeps it cold in here. Keeps the nipples out, he said, and nipples make the customers happy. I roll my eyes at the memory of that conversation from my first night. I thought he was ‘the shit’ back then. My way out of a shitty, unwanted existence. A way to live on my own. And it was . . . Until I wanted better for myself.

My thighs and calves are burning. I’m ready to go home and shower, to crawl into bed with a movie in the background as I fall asleep, but unfortunately that won’t happen anytime soon for me. I still have another set later.

I walk into my dressing room and shut the door. “Lock it.”

I nearly jump out of my skin at the sound of his voice, my hand immediately snaking over my breasts to cover them. Reflexively I lock it without questioning him. His tone is a little . . . harsher than usual, and his irritation is nothing new to those that work for him.

I look at him sitting in my chair, hunched over, legs spread wide with his elbows to his thighs, holding a lighter between them—my lighter, in fact. In a hypnotic rhythm he strikes it, causing the flame to emerge before letting it go. He’s looking at it and not at me, as if he’s trying to cool some sort of fury inside of him. My heart begins to race. I can feel my pulse beating along every passage in my body. My nerves spark like two wires being touched together with opposite charges. My oxygen tries to recede back into my lungs. I force the words out. “Kross . . . What are you doing here?”

He looks up at me, a cold, stone-like demeanor present, emotion absent. The words come out as controlled as he is. 

“Come here.”

His eyes look different—determined, angry maybe. My feet automatically move toward him. I should stay where I am, but instead, I quickly tread across the floor to where he sits. The second I get to him he stands and grabs my neck so fast I can barely blink between movements. He forces me to sit on top of my vanity, head against the mirror as he comes between my legs. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

I grab his wrist as a reflex. “Kross, I’m working.”

He looks down my almost-naked body, his judgment cutting into me like a serrated edged knife. If I didn’t already feel like trash I would with just that look. “I can see that. What happened to the damn bar, Delta?”

He’s seething. Fear sets in. Little to nothing scares me. I’ve worked for him for a while now. I’ve seen him on a daily basis and in many different moods. I’ve never heard this tone before. It’s bordering on psychotic. And his eyes. What’s wrong with his eyes? His grip tightens, but still not enough to hurt me in ways I can’t take or cut off my air. Because even though he’s holding me in a way that most would deem abusive, no bone in my body feels like he would physically hurt me. The only thing my mind can process is the fact that he’s close, and that he’s touching me in a way I’ve wanted him to since I laid eyes on him. He’s looking at me like I’m his, like he’s angry with me. I stare into his eyes, unable to look away even though I can’t read them. “Answer me.”


Author Bio


I found books when I was going through a hard time in life. They became my means of escape when things got bad. I realized quickly how much I loved to take a backseat to someone else's life and watch the journey unfold. That began my journey with books in November of 2012. I constantly had a book open on my Kindle app. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself as a writer, because I never thought I was creative enough. I'm living proof that things will fall into place when they're meant to be. People will make their way into our lives when we don't expect it, setting the path for what we are meant to do. Never give up on people. Never stop taking a chance on others. Someone took a chance on trusting me with her work when she didn't know me from a stranger on the street and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime as our relationship progressed, which led me to editing and writing as well. This is my dream I never knew I had. As soon as I sat down and gave writing a shot, it was like the floodgates opened. Now, I am lost in a world of fiction in my head, new characters constantly screaming for their stories to be told. Continue to dream and to go for them. No one ever found happiness by sitting on the sidelines. Sometimes we have to take risks and put ourselves out there. Thank you for all of your support, and may there be many books to come. XOXO- C






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A Curse of Flames (Curse of Fire Series) Sophia Shade - Book Blitz






Imogen is Dark Blessed… and bad things happen to those who are Dark Blessed…

When Imogen returns to her second year at Callador, she immediately senses the looming, threatening darkness embracing her school. A vision from last year promised yet another death, but the killing won’t stop there.

If Imogen can’t figure out who the killer is, the murders may never stop. And her friends might be next. Her only hope for saving them lies in her curse of being Dark Blessed, but revealing her true nature could destroy her life forever.

But what’s a girl to do when her number one suspect is the guy she doesn’t even realize she’s falling for?






A Curse of Fire Book One





Sophia Shade is the enchanting author of the Fae Academy world. She lives beyond the Shadow Veil with the students, teachers, and creatures who attend Callador: Academy of the Aos Sí. When not writing, she spends her time battling darkness to save her newfound friends and family from the mysterious force that wants to drain all magic from Faerie once and for all.












A Curse of Fire Book One





Sophia Shade is the enchanting author of the Fae Academy world. She lives beyond the Shadow Veil with the students, teachers, and creatures who attend Callador: Academy of the Aos Sí. When not writing, she spends her time battling darkness to save her newfound friends and family from the mysterious force that wants to drain all magic from Faerie once and for all.



Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Love on the Battlefield by Posy Roberts - Release Blitz





Love on a Battlefield
Posy Roberts
Publication date: February 20th 2018
Genres: Adult, LGBTQ+, Romance

Not every compass points north.

Andrew Summers is forced to spend his vacations reliving Civil War battles with his father. He hates every minute, until a blue-eyed, red-haired boy behind enemy lines catches his eye.

Shep Wells would much rather travel the world than play at boring war reenactments. He never dreamed a Texan boy would capture his heart.

Real life and years separate them; Andrew is forced onto real battlefields, but for Shep the world is a playground. They’re opposites, but writing letters closes the distance, uncovering their hopes and dreams. When Shep visits Andrew, they get to see if the tug they’ve felt for years is the compass pointing the way home.







EXCERPT

My father started taking me to Civil War reenactments long before I understood the politics of the war and its moral implications. I was introduced to the tradition before I knew what any war was truly about.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I was allowed to carry a weapon and shoot it myself. The physicality of battle was exciting. Hand-to-hand combat when munitions were spent was better than football any day.

But there were strict rules my dad implemented that I didn’t enjoy. “If we’re going to do this,” Dad always said, “we’ll be as authentic as possible. We’ll do it right, unlike those people who think this is Summer Stock.”

I wasn’t allowed to socialize with the Yankees at all, so I hung out with the Confederate kids or sat around campfires listening to the adults shoot the shit. If school was in session, I’d bury myself in homework and often ended up helping some of the younger kids with their lessons. The guys my own age . . . Well, we had little in common. Some were intense, a few down-right scary with their racism so proudly displayed.

What I’d learned after hanging out with them for years was that they hated everyone who wasn’t like them.

I wasn’t like them, but I wasn’t about to let them know for fear they’d turn their hate on me.

For the last two years, I’d watched a Union kid who only came to a few of these events, not like most of the reenactors, who made this a way of life. When he showed up, he was the center of attention. Maybe because he was novel, but when he was there, he always drew my eye. It was obvious the other kids looked up to him, fawned all over him, really. I never got close enough to talk to him, to find out what made him so fascinating.

But I saw it from afar. He was strong yet graceful, with a mess of hair in a color I’d never seen outside of jewelry or pipe fittings. His smile was easily earned, and he seemed so . . . carefree. So unlike the overly serious and angry kids who surrounded me.

I’d watch the Union kids in their shorts and T-shirts laughing and having fun. I wanted to be a deserter. I wanted to go see what life was like on their side. It sure as hell looked like a lot more fun than what ended up feeling like a weekend prison sentence in a hot, scratchy suit.

I couldn’t stop myself from turning to him, staring at him. I’d watch him leap into the air to catch a wayward Frisbee or wrestle boys to the ground, then help them up, all with a bright smile on his face.

Last summer, he’d worn a wreath of daisies in his hair, walking around as if it was the most normal thing in the world. 

My ‘friends’ laughed at him and speculated about his sexuality. I joined the adults then, unwilling to spend any more time with the assholes. It brought me closer to the redhead too, so I made myself blend in with my surroundings and looked to my heart’s content.

I didn’t know his name. I never got the chance to find out, but if he was here this time, I was determined to discover it.
As we arrived Friday afternoon, I scanned the area for his hair but didn’t see him.

After setting up camp, I followed my father out of our tent and joined the other men as they scoured maps and walked the battlefield to get a lay of the land. I turned down an invitation to hang out with the Rebel kids and instead listened to an expert on this particular battle drone on and on. Sitting there, sweating in my wool uniform under the scorching heat for hours, I had to get out from under the sun.
“I’m going to go fill up my canteen,” I whispered to my father.

“Stay hydrated.”

I gave him a quick nod, made my way past the tent filled with women and young girls quilting or spinning yarn, and found the metal water pump. I pushed down on the handle, trying to draw up the water, with little luck.

That’s when I saw him. He was in full Union dress, the buttons of his coat making the gold and red highlights in his hair appear metallic. He was unlike anyone else I’d ever seen.

He walked toward me with a wide smile. Sure of himself, but not cocky. More . . . careless. Utterly free.

“Want some help?” he asked. “I heard it’s hard to get this one started.”

I met his blue eyes, brilliant and wild like the sea. I was stunned into silence. He was even hotter up close, and suddenly I was unable to form words. I nodded my assent instead.

He wrapped his fingers around the metal handle and pushed down. It made a grating squeak that echoed, but the lever moved. He helped me push it down several times, hands sliding closer and closer with each pump until our fingers intertwined.

He laughed as water poured from the spout, and he bent down to taste the stream. The smell of iron surrounded us as I filled my canteen.

I watched him wet his hair, making it darker, which made his skin look extra pale. He was gorgeous, and the way the sun hit him right then, he looked like something out of a dream.

Stop being cheesy, I chided. So he’s hot. 

Don’t turn him into a fricking poem.

I replaced the cork, slung my bottle over my shoulder by the leather thong, smiled at him, and rejoined my father.

As we lined up on the battlefield the next day, I saw that shock of auburn hair straight across from me. Before I could make eye contact, the battle had begun, horses moving, gunfire blasting, and a few men already collapsing to the ground, probably playing out some real-life soldier’s tragic end.

I took out several Union soldiers with my fake munitions before I tripped over a rock. As I regained my footing and stood up, he was right in front of me.

I don’t recall if we gave each other a visual cue or if he said something, but we both decided to take a hit, bodies falling to the ground. We landed face-to-face, limbs sprawled out in opposite directions. My father was near, so I slammed my eyes shut, authenticating my death until I heard his voice move away with the continuing battle building.

When I dared open my eyes again, the Yankee soldier was staring at me, smiling and licking his lips. His jaw was strong, defined, dusted with stubble from who-knew-how-many-days growth, and it drew my attention to his chin and full lips. We lay there studying each other for several minutes, shamelessly staring, before he scooted closer.





Author Bio


Posy Roberts started reading romance when she was young, sneaking peeks at adult books long before she should’ve. Textbooks eventually replaced the novels, and for years she existed without reading for fun. When she finally picked up a romance two decades later, it was like slipping on a soft hoodie . . . that didn’t quite fit like it used to. She wanted something more.

She wanted to read about men falling in love with each other. She wanted to explore beyond the happily ever after and see characters navigate the unpredictability of life. So Posy sat down at her keyboard to write the books she wanted to read.

Her stories have been USA Today’s Happily Ever After Must-Reads and Rainbow Award finalists. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and friends and doing anything possible to get out of grocery shopping and cooking.







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Poison Kisses (#3 Poison Kisses Serials) Lisa Renee Jones - Now Available


Author 
Lisa Renee Jones 

Genre
Contemporary Romance 

Publication Date 
20 January 2018 



what to hide, because they know what is unforgivable to you. Now that I know what Seth hid from me, I want the secret to be the lie. I don't want to kill him. I don't want to leave him. I guess that is why they say there is a fine line between love and hate. I love and hate that man with such passion, that it damn near hurts. But now, as we face down our shared enemies, as we are lead right back to an explosive discover about my family, and to the night Seth and I parted ways, we will both be exposed in every way. And it's time for me to decide if I plan to love Seth Cage for the rest of my life, or kill him, before he kills me.
***Part three of the three part Poison Kisses Serial****









This finale is superbly delivered and nicely wraps up the loose ends from the first two parts of Poison Kisses.

This part is told in Amanda's POV and starts off with a flash back of what happened on that fateful night, three years ago. It then continues from where it left in the previous book. 

Amanda is heartbroken at what she has just discovered and she is conflicted between the past and the present. Seth has to gain her trust once again even though the revelation is damning. They still have a way to go to stop the villain from reaching his evil goal. Too many lives are at risk and the best way forward is to work together. In the process, they uncover the secrets behind the mysteries and some of the findings are gobsmacking. The corruption within the authorities knows no bound and every step they take is dangerous. Knowing who to trust is frustrating, but together, they are a force to be reckoned with. In more ways than one!

Poison Kisses is an intricately crafted plot. The mystery, the danger, the betrayal and the suspense make for a compulsive read. Seth and Amanda are strong and engaging characters. Their love for each other is very palpable and so beautiful. Bear and Julie make a valuable contribution to the story and it's so nice to catch up with Brandon and Emily. I devoured and savoured every part of this story. 

I was kindly issued with an eARC and the views expressed are my personal opinion.


Previous Books In The Serials


Poison Kisses Part 1
Amanda Skye made me want her. She made me trust her. She made me love her. Then she betrayed me. And now, a madman brings us together again and before our battle with him is over, I will make sure that she never forgets my name: Seth Cage. The Fixer for The Brandon Family Empire, but to a covert CIA operation, I will always be The Assassin. And to Amanda, I will be the man who made her moan, sigh, and beg. And I will make her beg.
***Note -- Poison Kisses is part 1 of a 3 part serial: All three parts are super sexy with an alpha man who has met his match in a kickass female. There will be naked moments that may or may not include a gun, which may or may not be his gun. ****




Poison Kisses Part 2
I loved her. She left me. She betrayed me but now it's time to open the closed doors. I'll tell her my secret if she tells me hers. Our history, is more than lies. It's our story, and I will do whatever it takes to reveal it all. I'm the Assassin, She's The Poison Princess. We're going to kill the bad guys, but we're still deciding if we're enemies. The one thing for certain, is we're both going to strip down and get bare.
***Part two of the sexy, thrilling three part Poison Kisses serial****







New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series. Suzanne Todd (producer of Alice in Wonderland) on the INSIDE OUT series: Lisa has created a beautiful, complicated, and sensual world that is filled with intrigue and suspense. Sara’s character is strong, flawed, complex, and sexy - a modern girl we all can identify with.

In addition to the success of Lisa's INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is presently working on a dark, edgy new series, Dirty Money, for St. Martin's Press.
Prior to publishing Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women's Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.







Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Fire and Bone (#1 Otherborn) Rachel A Marks - Book Blitz






Fire and Bone
Rachel A. Marks
(Otherborn #1)
Publication date: February 20th 2018
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

“Gossip Girl meets Percy Jackson in the glitz and grit of L.A….”

In Hollywood’s underworld of demigods, druids, and ancient bonds, one girl has a dangerous future.

Sage is eighteen, down on her luck, and struggling to survive on the streets of Los Angeles. Everything changes the night she’s invited to a party—one that turns out to be a trap.

Thrust into a magical world hidden within the City of Angels, Sage discovers that she’s the daughter of a Celtic goddess, with powers that are only in their infancy. Now that she is of age, she’s asked to pledge her service to one of the five deities, all keen on winning her favor by any means possible. She has to admit that she’s tempted—especially when this new life comes with spells, Hollywood glam, and a bodyguard with secrets of his own. Not to mention a prince whose proposal could boost her rank in the Otherworld.

As loyalties shift, and as the two men vie for her attention, Sage tries to figure out who to trust in a realm she doesn’t understand. One thing’s for sure: the trap she’s in has bigger claws than she thought. And it’s going to take a lot more than magic for this Celtic demigoddess to make it out alive.










EXCERPT


LILY

I try to hide my shivering as I wait before the altar, in my position as the Bonding begins. Around me, shadows dance over the cairn walls from the restless flames licking up the ram’s body—the sacrifice on the pyre behind me—and the smell of sweat and burnt flesh smother the smoky air.

The King of Ravens paints an alarming image, standing almost naked across from me on the other side of the blood circle. He wears the corona radiata, the golden laurel-leafed crown, on his head of onyx hair. His short beard is neatly trimmed, combed with lavender oil for the ceremony. His sharp silver eyes study me beneath a heavy brow.

I try not to think about the past. Or future. I try not to think about what those hard hands will feel like on my skin when he seals this Bond.

I study the stone floor rather than look in those metallic eyes. I feel them on me, though, the same way they have been for the fortnight I’ve been here preparing for the ceremony. He hasn’t touched me; he’s only brought me gifts and insisted I sit with him beside the greatfire in the evening before he goes out for his hunt. Sometimes I smell him in the hallway outside my rooms. But he never comes in, thank the goddess. The scent of blood is heavy on him in those moments. I’m not sure what I would’ve done if he’d attempted anything.

After this is done, it won’t matter. My bed will be his. As will my life.

A druid walks back and forth behind me, tossing rosemary and lavender onto the pyre after each stanza of his spell. He calls to the wind from the east, he calls to the waters in the west, and he pulls the spirit of flame and earth into the cairn with us, asking the Penta to approve the Bond set to be made between the two most powerful Houses, as he pleads for a blessing from our mothers, Brighid and Morrígan, and thanks the Cast for their permission to seal the Bond between the two very different powers.

A female druid comes to my side with bowl and brush, beginning to paint my skin in blue woad, tracing patterns of knots and runes across my back, then baring my chest and continuing.

The king’s gaze follows the woman’s strokes, and when she’s finished, he raises his chin at me in approval but says nothing. What does he see when he looks at me? My wild copper hair? My simple features? The awkward birthmark just above my heart? I’m round of cheek and hips and not much of a beauty. But however I look to him, I will belong to him.

Determination is set in hard lines on his face, and I wonder if the torque on his neck is working properly. I can see his dark energy lifting in silver and black curls over his shoulders now. It should be tight inside his skin, as mine is. The iron shackle should be holding it in place so that we don’t harm each other in the first merging, before we can get used to the feel of each other’s powers.

The female druid moves to the king next and begins painting the woad in circles over his torso. The druid chanting behind me recites the final section of his spell, walking the ram’s-blood circle painted on the floor. He holds a rowan stick aloft, flicking rosewater over the king and then me as he passes by, mumbling, “A price paid, a covenant sealed, in earth and blood and ash, in spirit and flesh and fire.”

The price is my will, my soul, in payment for the life of the human prince that I took.

In the center of the circle, between the king and me, is an altar with two bowls set atop, one full of salt, one full of rye.

The iron union dagger rests between them.

I stare at it, imagining the blade cutting into my flesh. And I can’t help when my gaze moves to the king. I want to blink and make this moment a dream, perhaps find myself in the thicket with Lailoken, among the bluebells in the Caledonian wood.

I should run from this son of Morrígan, deny him, deny our mothers, and let the world burn. But my heart twists at the thought. I was running from duty when fate took my heart from me, when the prince succumbed to my fire’s will. It was the childish notion of freedom that tore him from me.

Now it’s time to accept my punishment for allowing the humans to glimpse our world. Time to atone.

The druid’s voice fills the room again. “When moon gives birth to stars,” he says, in a droning hum, flicking more rosewater over us with the rowan stick, “let this Bond be sealed in blood.”

My skin prickles with fear as the king takes the cue, reaching out to pick up the ceremonial dagger by the leather-wrapped hilt. I focus on not moving, not making a sound, as I watch him bring the blade to his chest, tip pricking his left breast. A drop of crimson pearls up at the spot.

With a slow hiss of breath, he cuts across.

Dark blood slides down his abdomen in a thick swath of red. “My blood with yours,” he says. And he turns the knife, holding out the hilt for me.

My hands clench into fists at my side, and I force my shaking limbs to still.

I breathe in slowly again. Then I reach out, taking the ceremonial dagger from him, careful not to touch his fingers.

I pretend not to care about the cage I’m about to be locked in. About the pain in my soul from loss, from the goddess Brighid abandoning me to this darkness, pain from the reality of everything in front of me.

I press the tip of the blade to the center of my chest, the point breaking the skin. I look into the silver eyes of the king in front of me. And consider my fate.

One deep plunge to the heart and the pain will end. One plunge.

One.



Author Bio


Rachel A. Marks is a cancer survivor, a writer and artist, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. Her four kids and amazing hubby put up with her nerdiness with tremendous grace, even when she makes them watch Buffy or Smallville re-runs for days on end. She was voted: Most Likely To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse, but hopes she'll never have to test the theory.





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