Tag Archives: Book 3
Mystery, Thriller, Sci-fi
A Mary Jo Melendez Mystery, Book 3
Published: October 2018
Publisher: Carrick Publishing
Mary Jo is back. Her domestic bliss is rudely interrupted as a mercenary tries to kidnap her adopted children. She and husband Mario have a theory about why: after fighting off CIA and SVR agents in the previous novels in this series, it’s now the Chinese government that wants the super-soldier technology of her MECH friends (“Mechanically Enhanced Cybernetic Humans”) who are hiding in France…and they will stop at nothing to get it. With action taking place in China and France, this novel returns to the international action of the first to round out the trilogy.
Other Books in the Mary Jo Melendez Mystery Series:
A Mary Jo Melendez Mystery, Book 1
Publisher: Carrick Publishing
Published: August 2014
In this international mystery/thriller, ex-USN Master-at-Arms Third Class Mary Jo Melendez struggles with restarting her life until she is hired as a security guard for an R&D firm with Pentagon contracts. She is framed after a violent break-in and lands in prison. She escapes, struggles to clear her name, and seeks revenge for her sister and brother-in-law’s deaths, during a journey that takes her around Europe and South America and tests her many skills as well as her faith. On the way, she makes new friends that restore her belief in human goodness, and even finds romance.
In this international mystery, thriller, and espionage tale about conspiracy and betrayal, Steve Moore creates yet another strong female protagonist whose adventures illustrate his keen interest in the world around him and the people who populate it.
Silicon Slummin’…and Just Gettin’ By
A Mary Jo Melendez Mystery, Book 2
Publisher: Carrick Publishing
Published: February 2015
Mary Jo Melendez is back in this sci-fi mystery thriller. The protagonist of Muddlin’ Through takes a permanent security job in the Silicon Valley after bouncing across the U.S. through temp jobs. Her future isn’t all bright, though, as she discovers she has a stalker. Moreover, two teams of agents, U.S. and Russian, are in hot pursuit because of what she knows about the cyborgs she saved in the first book in this series. She hires a PI for surveillance and protection who becomes a new love interest. The two match wits against her pursuers. Will this ex-USN Master-at-Arms survive this time? Will she and her new romantic interest be able to end yet another conspiracy.
About the Author
Steven M. Moore was born in California and has lived in various parts of the U.S. and Colombia, South America. He always wanted to be a storyteller but had to postpone that dream to work in academia and R&D as a scientist. His travels around Europe, South America, and the U.S., for work or pleasure, taught him a lot about the human condition and our wonderful human diversity, a learning process that started during his childhood in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
A Heartbreaker Novel, Book 3
Published: October 16, 2018
Brent Keiser, a certified genius, and forensic accountant work for the FBI mostly because of their awesome retirement plan. Growing up homeless with a ditzy mother can make a guy be a little obsessive in the saving for the future department. But just once, he’d like to get out in the field, maybe actually fire a gun or chase after a bad guy like the other agents. Although, solving crimes with his calculator is statistically much safer, and he’d live to enjoy that house on the beach he saves for each payday.
Sara Chapman used to be a card-carrying member of the Hollywood rich kid pack, but after serving community service, she said goodbye to her spoiled friends. Seeing the plight of the homeless up close and personal gave her a new direction. But that doesn’t deter the annoying paparazzi. Her parents were the famous ones, not her. Sara’s only recent claim to fame was for having the most embarrassing public break up in the history of the entire world. Unfortunately, they don’t give Oscars for those, so she is trying to keep her head down and to stay as far away from single men as possible.
But then Sara becomes unknowingly tangled up in Brent’s money laundering case against her father. When it becomes hard to tell the good guys from the bad, she turns to Brent for help. While on the run for their lives, the built, nerdy accountant with magnificent abs, transforms into her personal superhero. Opposites in almost every way, will Brent see her as his Kryptonite or his Lois Lane?
Other Books in the Heartbreaker Series:
A Heartbreaker Novel, Book 1
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Published: August 2017
Dani Botelli has vowed to step out of her demanding movie star mother’s shadow and is determined to start a new chapter in her life. But two men vying for her attention are making for double the trouble. There’s Jake, her police detective almost-ex who wasn’t so hot as a husband but still has the hots for Dani. And as usual, he needs her intuition and visions to help him solve a crime. Then there’s her high school crush, Michael, a former NFL pro who’s now her mom’s hunky lawyer.
Working alongside Jake, while keeping her special gifts under wraps, is proving to be more dangerous than Dani realized. She needs to stay out of harm’s way—and out of Jake’s flirtatious path—long enough to find out if Michael is the one. But will her hard-to-explain hunches be the secret that comes between them?
A National Reader’s Choice Award finalist.
A Heartbreaker Novel, Book 2
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Published: February 2018
Falling in love can leave anyone feeling a little exposed…
Archaeologist Gabby Knight has been living under an assumed identity to steer clear of her mobster father’s enemies. But when she suspects her father of plotting to steal a priceless statue buried in New Mexico, she risks everything and sets out for the desert to beat him to it—and to save him from making a grave mistake. Breaking into a secluded cabin to wait out a blizzard, she’s not worried about visitors. It’s not like anyone would be traveling in this kind of weather…right?
Wrong. Detective Jake Morris has been ordered to take an overdue vacation, so he’s looking for some quiet time in the isolated retreat. But getting clobbered over the head by an auburn-haired firecracker wielding a cast-iron pan wasn’t the relaxing start he had in mind. Using a lot of charm and a little help from his prophetic ex-wife, Dani, he soon discovers who the sexy intruder really is.
Serving justice is in Jake’s blood, so he can’t help but join Gabby on her quest to protect the statue and catch a thief. To properly do his job, Jake knows he can flirt but better not fall. After all, what kind of future could a cop and a mobster’s daughter hope to have?
About the Author
Tamra Baumann is an award-winning author of light-hearted contemporary romance. A reality-show junkie, she justifies her addiction by telling others she’s scouting for potential character material. She adamantly denies she’s actually living vicariously in their closets. Tamra resides with her real-life characters—her husband, kids, and their allergy-ridden dog—in the sunny Southwest. Visit her online at www.tamrabaumann.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/author.tamra.baumann.
Outcasts, Book 3
Publisher: Anything-but-Ordinary Books
Published: September 2018
Xorran, a famed tracker, is sent to find two human females kidnapped by the Outcasts’ enemy. His search seems futile until he encounters Sara and a feisty battle cat cub. He’s fascinated by the tiny animal, but feels an immediate and powerful connection with the wisecracking human.
Sara is still angry about being brought to the Outcasts’ planet without her permission, yet her stubbornness is no match for “the pull”. As they work together to rescue her friend, their passion flares ever hotter. Can Xorran prove to Sara that he wants more than a torrid affair? Now that he’s found a potential mate, he will settle for nothing less than forever.
Other Books in the Outcasts Series:
Outcasts, Book 1
Publisher: Anything-but-Ordinary Books
Published: April 2018
Restless and embittered by an abusive past, Arton the Heretic finds himself in a battle of wills with Lily, a gorgeous geneticist. She holds the key to the future of his people, but she was brought to this savage world against her will and that’s an insult she’ll not soon forget. Their attraction is instantaneous and intense, yet each has valid reasons for mistrusting the other. He wants her, is consumed with the need to claim her, but he can’t focus on the future until he deals with the past.
Outcasts, Book 2
Publisher: Anything-but-Ordinary Books
Published: June 28, 2018
Rex Dravon, a notorious smuggler, is one of the Outcasts’ most important allies. Many of the Outcasts’ philosophies and approaches to life in general appeal to him, but he’s hesitant to commit to any cause. Hoping to entice Rex into committing, Arton the Heretic, tells Rex that he is genetically compatible with one of the “captive brides”, a feisty blonde named Thea Cline.
Thea is still enraged that she was dragged from Earth without her permission, and she’s recovering from a horrendous tragedy. She sneaks aboard the Marauder hoping to steal a weapon. Instead she’s confronted by the ship’s handsome commander. She knows to be wary of Rex because of his reputation, but she’s instantly, and powerfully, drawn to him. His offer to help her escape comes a little too quickly and she fears he has ulterior motives. Is he simply hoping to lure her into his bed—a fate she’s not sure she’d mind—or is his motivation more nefarious?
Outcasts 3: Tracker
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Copyright © 2018 Cyndi Friberg
Slowly, he lowered his face, gaze boring into hers. Time paused, trapping her in the moment and narrowing reality to Xorran and her. His warm breath stirred against her lips, his scent slowly filling her nose. He was strong and handsome, smart and kind. And he offered security and a sense of belonging that she’d longed for all her life. Why was she so afraid of making the promise reality?
His lips pressed against her and she closed her eyes, blocking out thought and insecurity. He’d lit a fire in her body and now he was going to fan the flames until there was nothing left but ash. She only hoped that she would survive the inferno.
He pushed his arm back beneath her neck as his mouth caressed hers. As before, the kiss was slow and coaxing rather than harsh and demanding. He could be aggressive. No one rose through the ranks of any military without being ruthless, even lethal. But with her, he was gentle, patient.
Tired of denying her body what it needed so badly, she parted her lips and raised her hand to his face. Bristle roughened his jawline, but higher, along the crest of his cheekbone, his skin was warm and soft. She explored his shapes and textures while he traced her lips with the tip of his tongue. All the while their breaths mingled and mixed, making her head spin and her nipples tingle. Her heartbeat accelerated, amplifying the throb between her legs. She needed him there, filling the emptiness, stretching her core until she screamed with pleasure.
As if sensing her thoughts, his tongue pushed into her mouth, sliding along hers until his taste exploded along her taste buds, sending a fresh rush of desire all through her body. She groaned, hips canting, legs thrashing restlessly.
He slid his thumb along the collar of her uniform top, triggering the seam release. Cool air wafted across her breasts as he parted the sides, baring her to the waist. His hand soon followed, cupping, gently squeezing, and then teasing the nipples with the pad of his thumb or a careful pinch. She groaned into his mouth as darts of sensation zinged from the tips of her breasts to her clit. Desire rose, burning brighter as his skillful touch awakened her senses.
Eager to feel more of him, she drew his shirt from inside his pants. He wore the clingy pullover style many of the men favored. The fabric came free and quickly bunched below his arms. She tore her mouth away from his long enough to whisper, “Off.” She tugged on the shirt, illustrating what she wanted. He tore the garment off, obliging her with nearly violent haste, then his mouth recaptured hers.
She stroked his chest and shoulders, lingering over his arms, fascinated by the bunch and flex of his impressive muscles. All the Outcasts were lean and fit. Some were even more handsome than Xorran. But he was hers, hers to touch and taste, talk to and depend on. If she allowed his claim, they would share thoughts and emotions. There would be no lies, no pretense or deception. But she had to be willing to give him the same access to her mind. She had to be brave enough to believe his promises, and risk her heart.
Something deep inside her shifted, she softened, opened, and not just physically. She wanted to make love to him desperately, but she wanted more, she wanted that deeper connection, the absolute intimacy only experienced by bonded mates.
She returned his kiss with greater fervor, arching into his touch. “Oh Xorran, I want—”
“I know, love. I know.”
About the Author
Passionate Sci-Fi with a touch of danger and a whole lot of sass. Cyndi has written about rock stars, vampires, and cat shifters, but she’s currently focused on outer space. Her stories are fun, fast-paced, and seriously hot. She has made the USA Today Top 100, and every book in the Battle Born series landed on Amazon’s Top 100. She is currently working on Outcasts, a spin-off series set in the Battle Born universe.
The Metis Files, Book 3
Release Date: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Millennia ago, beings we call angels were tasked with watching over humankind in its infancy. Rather than protect humans, these Watchers decided to subjugate them instead, beginning a rebellion that would rock both Heaven and Earth. Defeated, the most powerful of the Watchers were imprisoned for eternity, while the weaker ones were condemned to live out their existence on Earth, relegated to the shadows that now occupy human myths and legends.
Until one of the Watchers escapes.
Immortal protector of humanity and one-time hero of the Trojan War, Diomedes—better known as Steve Dore these days—is horrified to discover that what human authorities think is a mentally unstable cannibalistic murderer is actually a gateway to something ancient and apocalyptic. Racing against a cosmic timetable, Diomedes is drawn into a dark and sinister underworld in a desperate attempt to stop another uprising.
But stopping this enemy may cost him far more than his life. Some grudges never die.
Other Books In The Metis Files Series:
The Metis Files, Book 1
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Release Date: June 2015
Eternal life. Eternal battle.
Steve—Diomedes Tydides to his Trojan War buddies—just had a bad day on his charter fishing boat in San Diego, but when the goddess Athena calls on her faithful warrior for another secret mission, he’s ready. The bomb that exploded inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art isn’t the crime American authorities think it is. Someone also stole the Cup of Jamshid, and Diomedes knows its fortune-telling abilities won’t be used for anything benign.
Though Diomedes recovers the Cup from a determined shaman holed up beneath Central Park, when he finds his allies slain and the Cup taken once more, he knows he’s up against a truly powerful enemy. Over a millennium has passed since Diomedes last contended with Medea of Colchis, deranged wife of Jason the Argonaut, but neither her madness nor her devotion to Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, has waned, and she intends to use the Cup of Jamshid to release across the world a dark brand of chaos unseen in human history.
Immortal since the Trojan War, Diomedes must once again fight for mortals he understands less and less, against a divine evil he may never truly defeat.
The Metis Files, Book 2
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Release Date: February 2017
The hunter becomes the hunted.
Framed for the murder of a high ranking member of the Unseelie Court of Fae, Steve Dore–also known as Diomedes, Guardian and protector of mankind–goes on the run. He’s determined to uncover the real culprit and clear his name.
But the assassination may be the beginning of a more sinister plot that involves not just the Fae and Humankind, but all the races of the world. And what if the real assassin is a boogeyman even the Fae don’t believe is real?
About the Author
Brian S. Leon is truly a jack of all trades and a master of none. He writes just to do something with all the useless degrees and skills he’s accumulated over the years. Most of them have no practical application in civilized society, anyway. His interests include mythology and fishing, in pursuit of which he has explored jungles and museums, oceans and seas all over the world.
His credentials include an undergraduate degree from the University of Miami and a master’s degree from San Diego State University, plus extensive postgraduate work in evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he studied animals most people aren’t even aware exist and theories no one really cares about anyway.
Over his varied career, Brian’s articles have been published in academic journals and popular magazines that most normal people would never read. They can be found in The American Society of Primatologists, the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Proceedings of the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the like.
His more mainstream work came as an editor for Marlin and FlyFishing in Salt Waters magazines, where he published articles about fishing and fishing techniques around the world. He won a Charlie Award in 2004 from the Florida Magazine Association for Best Editorial, and several of his photographs have appeared on a number of magazine covers–almost an achievement of note, if they weren’t all fishing magazines.
Always a picky reader, Mr. Leon enjoys stories by classical masters like Homer and Jules Verne as well as modern writers like J.R.R. Tolkien, David Morrell and Jim Butcher. These books, in combination with an inordinate amount of free time, inspired him to come up with tales of his own.
Brian currently resides in San Diego, California.
Book One of The Kronicles of Korthlundia
Date Published: April 2017
Publisher: Bewitching Fables Press
In a world where the corrupt church hides the truth about magic, the fate of the joined kingdom falls on the shoulders of two young people from opposite ends of the social hierarchy.
Crown Princess Samantha’s life begins to fall apart when she starts seeing strange colors around her potential suitors. She fears that she’s going insane–or worse that she’s defying the Goddess’s will. Robrek is a lowly farm boy with incredible magical powers. He has been biding his time waiting to get revenge on those who call him a demon.
Thrown together by chance, they must overcome their differences to fight their common enemy Duke Argblutal, who, with dark magic, is slowly poisoning the king’s mind and turning him against his own daughter. Time is running out for those chosen by the Goddess to prevent the power mad duke from usurping the throne and plunging the joined kingdoms into civil war.
Other Books in The Kronicles of Korthlundia Series:
The Kronicles of Korthlundia: Book II
Publisher: Bewitching Fables Press
A match made by the goddess is threatened by an Ancient Evil.
As Samantha and Robrek prepare for their marriage and coronation, they are met with opposition on all sides. Not all believe that the peasant sorcerer is worthy to be king, and the young couple must perform delicate political maneuvers to prevent the joined kingdoms from breaking apart.
As the church splits over opposition to their union, an unseen force is poised to release an ancient evil that was last defeated a thousand years ago. When the Soul Stone is broken free of its bonds, all life in its path succumbs to its power. How much will the new royal couple have to sacrifice to free the joined kingdoms of its evil?
The Kronicles of Korthlundia, Book 3
Publisher: Bewitching Fables Press
The Ghost is going to hell. Not even the goddess can forgive his sins: assassin, oath-breaker, traitor (an affair with the queen earned him that title). No one can ever learn the princess is his daughter. To keep this secret, he flees to the land that turned him from a simple stable groom into an infamous killer.
His mission now? To find evildoers and take them to hell with him. But when an impulsive act of heroism saddles him with a damsel who refuses to be distressed, her resilience forces him to questions why he really ran from his daughter.
The Princess Samantha sat at her dressing table and glowered at her reflection as her maids dressed her hair. She detested balls and loathed the hundreds of suitors who flocked around her: “I have never seen a lovelier flower, Your Highness!” or “Your eyes rival the brilliance of the stars, Your Highness!” If I hear that one again, I’ll vomit. It wouldn’t be quite so bad if even one of them meant it. Sometimes she wished . . . She pushed the thought away. As the heir to the throne, she couldn’t expect romance.
“Let us be painting your face tonight, Your Highness!” Ardra begged. Samantha’s maid was as small and slight as the princess herself and had hair so blonde it was almost white. The princess smiled at the quaintness of her speech. Although both Ardra and Malvina had been in Murtaghan for over ten years, they still hadn’t lost the peculiarities of their western Lundian accents.
“Yes, Your Highness,” Malvina chimed in. “Lady Shela’s maids said just yesterday we couldn’t possibly be knowing our business ’cause you never be wearing paint.” Malvina, more of a typical Korthlundian woman, was tall and broad and not nearly as pretty as Ardra.
“Lady Shela,” Samantha snorted in disgust. Shela wore so much paint she resembled some ghastly sea creature. Samantha knew she wasn’t pretty, but she was fond of the freckles that speckled her nose and thought the emerald green brilliance of her gown set off her white skin and auburn hair beautifully. Besides being appallingly uncomfortable, paint would absolutely spoil the effect. The princess gestured toward the huge portrait that covered one wall of her bedchamber. “Do you think Danu wore paint?”
Malvina shrugged. “The Princess Danu was said to be a powerful sorceress, Your Highness. She probably didn’t need to wear paint to attract men.”
Samantha laughed bitterly, as she thought of the army of men waiting below. “I wish not wearing paint was all it took to scare them off. They say Danu never married, and see how happy she is.”
Samantha yearned for Danu’s freedom. The long-dead princess was laughing as she galloped across the fields with her auburn hair flying out behind her in the wind. The stars on the forehead and chest of her horse shone against its gorgeous coat. Samantha loved this painting, which was just as well because it was bolted to the wall and couldn’t be removed without tearing her chambers apart. She’d decorated the rest of her bedroom to match. Tapestries of horses covered the walls. Her dressing table, armoire, and large four-poster bed had horses carved into the woodwork. A quilt, embroidered with horses and stars, was spread over the bed. The mantle over her fireplace sported figurines of horses in gold, silver, jade, crystal, and precious stones. Every new ambassador added to her collection.
“Your Highness, you’ll be having to marry one of them eventually,” Ardra persisted. “The king won’t be letting you hold out forever. You are seventeen, after all. Your mother was only thirteen when she married the king.”
“You needn’t remind me, Ardra.” Samantha picked up her silver-backed brush from the dressing table, a gift from the Neasarian ambassador that was inlaid with an amber Horsetad; diamonds marked the stars at its forehead and chest. She fingered it lovingly. “Do you think it’s true Danu rode a Horsetad?”
“So the bards sing of her,” Ardra said.
Malvina made an impatient noise in her throat. “And they also be singing she turned suitors into toads with her kiss! You don’t really believe such nonsense, do you, Your Highness? Nobody can tame a Horsetad.”
“No, I suppose not,” the princess sighed wistfully, then smiled at the toads that hopped around the feet of Danu’s horse. How I wish my kiss could do that!
Finally, her maids were finished weaving the jewels through her hair and had attached the simple gold circlet of the heir. Samantha tried to take a deep breath, but was prevented by the tightness of her corset. “That’s it. This is the last time I wear a corset. Have my dresses altered to fit without one. And don’t lecture me about fashion. I’d rather be able to breathe.”
Before her maids could protest that without a corset she was almost as flat as a boy, she left the room. She passed through her reception room, which was decorated in a similar style to her bedroom and contained more ambassadorial gifts. Pausing in front of her favorite tapestry—a white mare at the edge of the forest, helping her newborn foal stand, she wished she were heading for the stables instead of the ballroom. She forced her face into a court smile and left her chambers.
Her two bodyguards bowed and fell in behind her. The princess couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been followed by two heavily armed men. She’d grown so used to them she often forgot they were there.
A full crowd tonight, of course. While the possibility of wearing a crown still exists, not even a deadly plague would keep the hordes away.
Behind the dais at the top of the ballroom was the king’s standard—a brilliant yellow sun on a field of red. Next to it was a smaller standard in her own colors—the head of a white horse on a field of emerald green. The walls were lined with the standards of all the noble houses of Korthlundia; most sported images of ferocious beasts or weapons of war. If I’m supposed to be maintaining the peace, why do I have to dance in a room that celebrates war? Her father claimed they couldn’t redecorate the ballroom without the risk of offending one or more of the Korthlundian noble houses. But Samantha doubted she’d like balls any better no matter how the room was decorated.
As she moved through the crowd, the courtiers parted and bowed. All the men attempted to catch her eye, and the smiles of the women failed to mask their jealousy.
As she mounted the dais where her father and members of the royal council awaited, King Solar beamed at her. His long white hair and beard flowed around his head, giving him the appearance of the wise old man from the bards’ tales. She bowed to him, and he quickly extended his hand, raised her, and gave her a kiss on the cheek. Despite his insistence that she marry, her father did love her. The princess knew she should consider herself lucky. Most royal children had no choice in a spouse, but her father had left her free to choose among the men of appropriate rank. But as she looked over the sea of hungry male eyes, the thought of marrying any of them nauseated her. If only marrying them didn’t mean I had to bed them.
Beside the king, Uncle Caedmon smiled at her. Caedmon, Duke of Tuath and Boirche, was her mother’s uncle and had been her father’s chancellor since she was two years old. He had very bushy eyebrows that gave the impression he was always looking down on people. But he was one of the few members of her father’s council she liked, and he was the only one who exhibited no designs on the throne. His only son had married before she was born.
Immediately after the king announced the opening of the ball, Argblutal, the Duke of Handgriff, stepped forward to claim the first dance. No one else ever dared ask her until the duke had had his turn. Like every Korthlundian man, Argblutal was tall, broad-shouldered, and blue-eyed. Many of the girls found him handsome, but she wasn’t sure why. He was nearly twice her age. He was dressed in a surcoat of black leather with long black velvet sleeves, trimmed in gold and crimson braiding. He had several thick gold chains around his neck. From the largest of these hung a pendant of a panther, the symbol of his house. In defiance of court fashion, he wore his blond beard and hair cropped short. He and Duke Sheen were her closest living relatives on her father’s side, not that they were very close—third cousins or something. Both had thought to inherit the throne until her birth gave Solar a direct heir.
Argblutal bowed. “May I have the first dance, Your Highness?”
“I’d be honored, Your Grace.” Father would throw a fit if I refused. She smiled her fakest smile and accepted his hand.
As the dance began, the duke bowed low over her hand, sliming it with a kiss. “Your Highness, you are the brightest star in a shining crowd tonight.” It’s only the first dance, and I get the star thing already. Is there some book they all read? Fifty-two Compliments for Ladies. The duke danced stiffly, as if he disapproved of frivolity. “Your dress, it’s Saloynan silk, is it not, Your Highness?”
“No, it’s Neasarian. I find the weave so much finer. Don’t you?” The silk did feel delightful against her skin, but she found talk of fashion and fabric tedious. She’d never understood the other girls’ obsession with it, just as she never understood why they giggled so much.
“So I have heard, Your Highness, but it’s very difficult to come by. The Neasarians are more interested in trading spices than silk.”
This was true, but equally boring, so she smiled and made some inane comment. When the dance finally ended, Argblutal slimed her hand again. “Perhaps we can share another dance before the evening’s end, Your Highness.” Surreptitiously wiping her hand on her gown, Samantha merely smiled. Only if all seven of the hells freeze over.
The next suitor in line was Lord Devyn, Duke Sheen’s oldest son. Devyn was only a couple of years older than the princess, but he looked younger. His chin was covered with only the lightest and most delicate of fuzz. The princess thought he’d look better if he shaved. But, of course, he couldn’t do that; only the clergy shaved. “May I . . . may I have this dance, Y-y-your Highness?”
As the dance began, Lord Devyn turned a dozen shades of red. “Y-y-your Highness looks just like a-a-a flower tonight.” It was obvious he didn’t want to dance any more than she did, but Duke Sheen was bent on controlling Korthlundia through his son. She’d heard the duke had threatened Devyn with the lash to force him to court her. Devyn was only comfortable among his paints and canvases. Besides, he was in love with Count Morfran’s daughter, Lady Aislinn. She wished just once some man would look at her the way she’d seen Devyn look at Aislinn.
Samantha noticed blue under his fingernails. “And how is your latest creation coming? Working in blues, I see.”
Devyn gaped. “I’m doing a seascape, Your Highness, but how could you know?” When she glanced at his fingers, he curled his fingernails into his fists. “Your Highness, how could I have been so neglectful? My father will kill me.” Devyn was a nice boy, but she wished his father would leave him to his art and his lover.
After Devyn, the princess worked her way through her father’s council—Count Kayne, Duke Torin, Count Weylin, Baron Arawn’s son, Baron Teague, and a host of other nobles of varying degrees of importance. Nola, Count of Meillid, looked on wistfully. The count was nearly as round as he was tall, and it was rumored he’d do away with his wife if he thought he stood a chance of capturing the princess’s hand. He had a five-year-old son, and Samantha thought it a wonder Nola didn’t send the toddler to court her.
After the majority of the king’s council had had their turn, ambassadors and foreign envoys began to present themselves. She knew each one was eager to negotiate the most important treaty between their two countries—one that would give them power over the Korthlundian throne. The princess enjoyed the variety of their appearance, but at heart, they seemed little different than the Korthlundian nobles. The vast majority were nearly twice her age, and the talk of stars and flowers sounded little different in a Mintarian accent than in a Korthlundian one. However, the princess smiled when Phomello, the son of the Neasarian ambassador, took her hand. As with all Neasarians, everything from his hair to his skin to his eyes was a deep rich ebony. It was he who’d given her the silver brush and the silk for her gown, and she’d seen him several times in the stables. He seemed to share her love of horses, but the best thing about him was that he could barely speak Korthlundian, so he couldn’t bombard her with mindless chatter.
* * *
The king went to bed at midnight, but Samantha was forced to stay and dance with suitor after suitor.
“Might I dance with the stars of heaven tonight?” Count Pandaran, the only member of her father’s council with whom she hadn’t yet danced, asked. He always danced with her late in the balls; maybe he felt he was saving the best for last. He wore a surcoat of bright turquoise, edged with yards and yards of delicate lace. His hair and beard hung in long, blond ringlets. When the princess took his hand, she cringed at the smoothness of his palms. The damned fool doesn’t even know how to wield a sword. The hands of most of the men at court were like hers—rough and calloused from weapons training. Knowing she would rule after him, her father had always treated her more like a son than a daughter. Despite what other members of the court might think of it, he had insisted she receive weapons training since she was strong enough to hold a sword.
As they whirled around the ballroom floor, a soft glow of rotten orange erupted around Pandaran. A steaming heat seeped from the orange and poured over her, coating her body with a slime so thick a dozen baths wouldn’t cleanse her. The princess nearly cried out in despair. Not the colors again! I thought I’d gotten rid of them! It had been several months since she’d spent all night kneeling at the altar in the palace chapel, praying for the goddess’s help. She’d felt the goddess’s peace and thought the terrifying colors gone forever. But again she’d been wrong. When she’d first seen the colors, she’d gone in disguise to the Temple of the Mother’s Love. It was the only time she’d ever given her bodyguards the slip. She’d told a priest about the colors. He’d insisted she was under the influences of the denizens of darkness and that her soul was in great peril and performed an exorcism. It hadn’t worked. Nothing had. Maybe it’s not demons; maybe I’m insane.
The princess was so upset after her dance that she fled the room without giving an explanation. She ignored the questions from her bodyguards and her maids, but she was shaking by the time Ardra and Malvina had finished undressing her and taking down her hair. When she was finally alone, she curled up into a ball on her bed. The colors had to mean something, but after the exorcism had failed, she’d never dared tell anyone else about them. Tonight she again prayed to the goddess for help. At last, she fell into a troubled sleep, her dreams full of people who glowed as brightly as the jeweled horses on her mantelpiece.
About the Author
Jamie Marchant began writing stories about the man from Mars when she was six, and she never remembers wanting to be anything other than a writer. Everyone told her she needed a backup plan, so she pursued a Ph.D. in American literature, which she received in 1998. She started teaching writing and literature at Auburn University. One day in the midst of writing a piece of literary criticism, she realized she’d put her true passion on the backburner and neglected her muse. The literary article went in the trash, and she began the book that was to become The Goddess’s Choice, which was published in April 2012. She claims she writes about the fantastic . . . and the tortured soul. Her poor characters have hard lives. She lives in Auburn, Alabama, with her husband and four cats, which (or so she’s been told) officially makes her a cat lady. She still teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. She is the mother of a grown son.