Romance

The Moment you’ve been waiting for… Submissions open November 1st, 2017.

It’s that time of year again! We’re pleased to announce that our submissions will open again for a brief window starting November 1st, 2017. How brief of a window, you may ask? Well, that depends how quickly we find what we’re looking for! But submissions will be open at least through the month of November, if not until the end of the year. However, if you’re considering submitting to us this year, I feel I must warn you that we expect the competition will be fierce. See, the thing is, we’ve almost got a full line-up picked out for 2018, so at most we’ll be looking to pick one, possibly two more books and that’s it.

wg1If you want to see what kind of books we publish to see if yours fits in, please have a look at our store. You can try one of our books for free with the discount code: MWFREETRIAL

And if you want to see what new books we have coming up, take a look at our new releases page here. 

We’re looking for Escapism Fiction. Children’s, Middle Grade, Young Adult, or Adult, any target age will do, but please inform us in your query letter who the target audience is. We’ll also want to know the genre, either fantasy, romance, science fiction, adventure, mystery, paranormal, speculative, or some combination of those I just listed. Your manuscript’s word count is also important to include, because it tells us at a glance the length of the project we’re looking at. Is it a novel, a novella, or something else? Are you writing a series? If so, tell us. Tell us how many books we are to expect to receive from you if we take you on.

If you submit to us, we expect to see a query letter filled with the information mentionedSpellhaven cover above as well as a quick description of your book. We’d also like a 1 page synopsis that includes the ending of your story so we can see if you can craft a satisfactory ending. Send both of those things along with a 3 chapter (or equivalent) sample – Please do not send the full manuscript if it is longer than 25 pages.

When we receive your submission, we’re going to be looking very closely at your opening. We’re looking for stories within our theme and preferred genres that have strong engaging openings. In order for us to request your entire manuscript you will have to catch our attention and prove your writing is interesting, relatively error-free, and engaging in the first scene. If your writing compels us to read the whole sample and want to read more, you’re on the right track.

Regardless of whether we accept your manuscript for publication or not we PROMISE to send you our thoughts with advice for how to improve your manuscript or which direction to try next. Because crafting personal responses takes time, we ask that you allow us six to eight weeks to respond. We WILL respond to all queries we receive, so there’s no need to follow up with us. 418obP8qfdL._SL500_AC_SS350_

So get your submission packages ready! And remember, if you need help, to check out our YouTube Channel and this blog for writing and publishing advice!

For details on how to submit and what we are and aren’t looking for, please see our Submissions Page. Thank you!

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Bewitching Hannah by Leigh Goff is here!

Remember Disenchanted? Well, Leigh Goff is back with another witchy tale. This time, it’s full of magic and mayhem and if you’re a fan of urban fantasy, I promise, you won’t be able to put it down! Leigh Goff’s newest masterpiece launches today, so without further ado, you can read all about it! (And, use promo code FEATURE this month in our store to get $3 off the ebook or the paperback!)

Being a witch is the last thing she wants…

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Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a troubled legacy of magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful Chesapeake witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W, a Calvert descendant who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead. Engaged in a deadly game without knowing who her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

 

Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Witches

Saphs Book PromotionsFollow the tour to read reviews, exclusive excerpts, guest posts, and book spotlights: https://saphsbookpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/09/virtual-book-tour-schedule-bewitching.html

 

And here’s an excerpt:

Lightning flashed, followed by a rumble of thunder, jolting me alert. A tempest churned over the Chesapeake Bay and was rolling toward town. I stared at the clouds, ready to calculate how much time we had before the rain hit. Another bright flash of white-hot lightning forked across the purplish-black sky. One, two…twenty.

 

Boom.

 

The storm was at least four miles away. I pressed a hand over my chest, feeling the thumping slow.

 

I glanced at Aunt J, who was no longer bopping her head to the bad music. Instead, she blinked over and over, and rubbed her eyes with one hand.

 

“If you’re tired, I can drive.” Who needed a license when I’d already mastered a moped along with the Green Briar golf carts?

 

Her slender fingers searched for me as if I were a ghost she could only hear. She grasped my arm tightly.

 

“Hannah?” Panic drenched her voice.

 

My eyes widened. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I can’t see. I mean, I see something, but it’s not the road. What’s wrong with me?”

 

I peered out the windshield. A distant telephone pole grew bigger as her foot stuck to the accelerator.

 

A frightening swell of adrenaline flooded my veins, sending my heart into a frenzy. “Stop!” I yelled, but she was frozen with fright. I grabbed the steering wheel and threw my leg over to jam on the brake pedal.

 

It was too late. Absolute silence fell over us in the grim second before we plowed into the pole. My lower body slammed into the dashboard while the seatbelt squeezed hard against my ribs. Metal groaned. White bubbles deployed. Glass shattered with a scream. Or maybe the scream was mine. The car groaned to a halt with a hiss and clank.

 

Stillness settled over us. My head was reeling as I checked myself for injuries. Bursts of pain sparked from my chest and leg.

 

“Hannah?” Aunt J’s quivering voice reached out.

 

I pried my eyes open. She had escaped her seatbelt. Her lips and hands were trembling, but I saw no blood or broken skin. Inwardly, I sighed with relief.

 

“Are you okay?” she asked.

 

I sucked in a shallow breath. “Me? Fine,” I managed, not wanting to stress her out, but I struggled to breathe and my left leg was wedged under the intruding dashboard.

 

She reached over, wiping her hands across my cheeks and forehead, dusting away crumbs of glass. She touched her trembling fingers to the seatbelt release and pressed on it, over and over. “Come on, dammit. Let go.”

 

I pushed her hand away, restraining a whimper. “It’s okay. Go get help.”

 

She nodded and with a hard push, shoved her door open. “I’ll be right back.”

 

A heavy silence fell over the car’s interior until a hiss sounded from the engine. Within seconds, the smell of burning oil seeped in through the vents.

 

One toxic breath went deeper than I meant it to. “Ow!” I coughed and writhed beneath the unyielding seatbelt like a five-year-old having a tantrum. Panic swept over me as I struggled for freedom.

 

Stress vibrated deep in my gut. Self-soothe, self-soothe, I reminded myself. The air grew thicker with burning oil and a starburst of pain wracked my body. I was going to die. Unless…

 

No. How could I even think it? There had to be another way because what if I couldn’t send it back? What if it took me to the same terrible place it had taken them?

 

I peered out the windows, searching. There was no one. I turned my focus on the glove box. Maybe Aunt J kept a knife in there or a pair of floral scissors. I pushed the button hard, again and again. Jammed. My heart raced.

 

A burst of smoke puffed into the car’s interior. I coughed and closed my eyes. The pressure on my leg intensified and the sickening fumes filled me with dread. Eff it. I balled my hands into fists.

 

I recalled the spell I’d overheard my dad utter once. I recited it in my head before casting, making sure I had it right. “By the power of fire, I do summon and churn, and call thee forth to blaze and burn.”

 

I stopped breathing, trying to sense any changes. I felt no different. And then it filled my core like a warm sphere of energy. Quickly, the power expanded into a blazing inferno. My back arched, pressing me harder into the seatbelt as my internal fire surged. Every cell jolted awake. My heart pounded out of control as I imagined channeling the smoldering energy. Suddenly, my hands tingled with intense power. I swallowed hard and aimed my fingers at the strap. The fiery threads trickled out in a wiggly pattern until I steadied my hand. The seatbelt burned orange, then cooled to black before separating.

 

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing eBook: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-ebook

 Mirror World Publishing Paperback: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-paperback

Amazon:http://amzn.to/2vtH056

 Kobo:https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/bewitching-hannah

 Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bewitching-hannah-leigh-goff/1126756568?ean=9781987976311

 

Leigh Goff-150 RETLeigh Goff, Writing Enchanting Ever-Afters ♥

Leigh Goff grew up in Maryland where she resides today. Her writing is inspired by an eclectic childhood, a vivid imagination, and compelling historical events. After taking several writing courses in college and attending professional writing workshops after she graduated from the University of Maryland, she joined the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with the Author: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeighGoffAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/leigh_goff

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2vjgNpt

Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9819621.Leigh_Goff

Blog: http://leighgoff.com/blog/

Publisher Website: http://www.mirrorworldpublishing.com

Author Website: http://leighgoff.com/author/leighgoff/

 

Sneak Peek at Mirror’s Deceit

As you may or may not be aware, Murandy Damodred and I have finished writing the third in the Mirror World series. The series begins with Mirror’s Hope, which you can find here. The story continues in Mirror’s Heart, here. But now, you get to learn everything from the beginning as the third book, Mirror’s Deceit, takes the form of a prequel set in the Mirror World.

Here’s the blurb:

She’s destined to change the world. Her rival has made a desperate flight to the past to stop her…

In a seeming utopia, Mirena, a gifted student of majik, is on the verge of graduating from a secret college that will give her a leg up in her political career, when her achievements are overshadowed by the arrival of a mysterious woman with an unknown agenda. Desperate to keep what she sees as her rightful place in the spotlight, Mirena goes to astounding lengths including taking it upon herself to pose as a double agent to investigate a rebel force plotting to destabilize the government. Unfortunately, her actions cost her the trust of those around her, so when she is proclaimed the Dark Avatar of the Destroyer, she finds she has nowhere to turn.

Mirror’s Deceit is currently being reviewed by beta readers and is set to be released early in 2018, but I thought I would give you a sneak peak by sharing a scene from chapter one. Here goes:

Mirena hit the ground hard. Rocks dug into the side of her face and her hands stung fiercely where she’d scraped them by instinctively trying to break her fall, even though there was no way she could have anticipated it. Her stomach lurched with the impact as she tried to fight off a wave of disorientation and nausea that threatened to overwhelm her.

A horn sounded. Two quick blasts. Despite herself, she counted them. I made it! I’m home.

She struggled to sit up. The air around her filled with the sounds of doors and windows being flung open as every person in the Stoa rushed to see who had arrived in the courtyard of their hidden College for talented Magi. Mirena grinned; her expression half grim determination and half hard-won pride. She forced herself the rest of the way to her feet and pushed the remaining nausea aside as nearly sixty students and half a dozen staff members barrelled down on her.

The cheering started as soon as they saw it was her and that she was on her feet and relatively unharmed. Mirena’s grin grew wider. I passed my exam in record time. Only four years study to make it to this moment, where most people take decades. The Mentor is going to be so impressed!

The gathering crowd parted to let the aging Mentor pass uninhibited. With his presence, the noise died down, slightly. The grey-haired Mentor smiled at the sight of her, leaning heavily on his cane as he alone out of all those gathered made his way down the steeply curving steps to stand just outside the sizeable ring of tall standing stones.

“Well done, Mirena,” he very subtly drew upon his majik to enhance the volume of his voice so all could hear him praise her.

Mirena beamed and starting running the minute the words were out of his mouth. She crossed between two stone pillars and flung herself at the Mentor, careful to throw her slight weight at him on the opposite side from where he held his cane, so he’d be able to keep his footing.

There was a collective gasp from the crowd that subsided as they realized the Mentor was still standing. “Whoa, there!” he called out, catching Mirena in one arm. “I know you’re excited, but you’re not done yet!”

“I know, but I’ll do the next part with no problems! You’d expect nothing less from your number one student…” She winked at him.

The Mentor shook his head. “Remember what I told you; rushing into things will only lead to a job half-finished. You have to look before you leap.” He put a hand under her chin to lift her blue eyes up to his before tilting her chin to the right. “I dare say that you wouldn’t have gotten these,” he noted the cuts the rocks had left on her cheek, “if you’d been more prepared to make the trip through the Sentinal Stones.”

“I would’ve been more cautious, but I was being chased by a large winged monster!” She exclaimed, stepping back from him so she could wave her arms emphatically. “I had to think fast and perform under pressure, so a slightly bad landing should be understandable…”  

“Tall tales, Mirena?” the Mentor asked, but his tone was light and his words kind.

“No, really. It’s true, it got my back with its claws, see?” She turned slightly to show him the claw marks that marred her left shoulder and the blood that she could now feel running down the length of her simple white dress.

Now it was the Mentor’s turn to gasp. He called back over his shoulder for someone to fetch the Healer.

“It’s okay, I’m fine. Just let me finish my test.”

He furrowed his brow momentarily, but when the Healer didn’t immediately manifest in the crowd, the Mentor had no choice but to step to the side and gesture for Mirena to continue. Nodding once and taking on a serious expression, she faced the spot where the Stoa’s headmaster had been standing moments before and applied her concentration to a line cut into the stone in an impossibly straight fashion.

That line was made by generations of Magi passing this test before me, including last person graduate four years ago; Terrence Lee. He only beat me in total time by a few days at most… I guess it’s not too bad to be second best when you’re being compared to the youngest and most talented Panarch in history!

Mirena returned her focus to the task at hand when she realized that everyone was now waiting expectantly. Everyone is watching. I can’t afford to fail. I have to concentrate!

She furrowed her brow, unconsciously mimicking the Mentor’s usual expression. Feeling the wind in her hair and the moisture riding on it from the nearby crashing of waves against the island on which she stood, Mirena took hold of her majik and felt the power of it build within her. She deftly added strength from the earth at her feet and some heat from the sun at her back and then she added what she liked to think of as the ‘secret ingredient’; a tiny piece of her own essence, her soul. Aiming it all at the space before her, directly above the tell-tale crack, she bent reality to her will and forced it to obey her. Two matched silver rings made up of all the elements spun in the air more expertly controlled than even the best circus performer could have managed, and with a sudden snap they locked together in place and between them she saw herself… from behind.

Mirena grinned once again, showing teeth this time. Opening a portal in front of you to travel to a spot within your viewing takes a great deal of concentration and skill. Let’s see what they all think of that!

The watching crowd gasped in a most satisfying way. Mirena went to take a bow while still holding the portal open with her majik just to prove that she could, when she took note of the Healer rushing down the stone stairway. Why is she running? I’m not hurt that bad… Can’t she see that?

But the Healer didn’t stop at her side, she brushed past her. Mirena whirled to follow the woman with her eyes, dropping the portal spell in her distraction. Behind her in the center of the circle of Sentinal Stones lay a woman dressed in a short light blue dress over black leggings. At first glance she looked to be unconscious and badly hurt; much worse than Mirena had been on her own landing.

Mirena’s first thought was that maybe she wasn’t the only one to pass her test today, as unlikely as that concept was, but she quickly realized that she didn’t know this woman. She wasn’t a student or a teacher from the Stoa, she was a stranger. It’s possible she didn’t know what she was doing. Perhaps she activated the Sentinal Stones by accident, which happens from time to time. Though usually not here…

As Mirena pondered the incident she felt the Mentor brush past her, followed by two other members of the faculty.

“Don’t crowd around!” The Mentor called out, his voice still amplified above normal volume by his majik. “Give her some room. It looks like whatever journey she’s taken to get here has taken a lot out of her. Hemora,” he addressed the Healer, “you’re in charge. Just let us know what you need.”

As the teachers made room for the Healer, Mirena got another glimpse at the mysterious stranger who had stolen her thunder. Despite the bruising on her face and scrape-marks similar to Mirena’s own, the woman appeared to be about Mirena’s age and very pretty with porcelain-coloured skin and long hair so dark it was nearly black. No sooner had she noted these details did the woman’s eyes open suddenly. They were deep blue and piercing and despite all the people in the courtyard and within the shadow of the tall standing stones, the stranger’s eyes locked onto Mirena’s own and held them.

1us

Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of eight novels and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally roleplaying with her friends.

 

Leigh Goff is back! Cover Reveal: Bewitching Hannah

It’s been quiet here this week and for that I apologize, but don’t worry  I haven’t been idle! I’ve been working on all the new releases coming this summer and into fall. As a quick overview for the rest of the year, we’ve got:

Spellhaven by Sandra Unerman – August 17th
Bewitching Hannah by Leigh Goff – September 17th
The Wandering God by Joshua Pantalleresco – October 17th
The Mystery on Lost Lagoon by Rita Monette – November 17th

We’ll be revealing the cover for The Wandering God next week and we’ll also be starting up a new short story by David McLain, author of The Time Traveller’s Resort and Museum, but today, we’re revealing the cover of Leigh Goff’s newest masterpiece, Bewitching Hannah!

So without further ado, here it is:

bhcoverartbevel-2

Being a witch is the last thing she wants…

Sixteen-year-old Hannah Fitzgerald has always known she is descended from a troubled legacy of magic. Although a stranger to her coven in Annapolis, she is no stranger to grief and denial. However, when an ancient prophecy reveals the rise of a young, powerful Chesapeake witch and the impending death of another, she realizes she can no longer afford to suppress the magic that has taken away so much. She seeks out the frighteningly scarred, yet mysterious W, a Calvert descendant who is destined to change her life, but even he cannot prepare her for the danger that lies ahead. Engaged in a deadly game without knowing who her true rival is, Hannah isn’t certain she will survive, and if she loses she may lose everything, including the ones she loves.

Pre-Order Links:

Mirror World Publishing eBook: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-ebook

Mirror World Publishing Paperback: https://mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com/collections/young-adult-fiction/products/bewitching-hannah-paperback

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2vtH056

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/bewitching-hannah

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bewitching-hannah-leigh-goff/1126756568?ean=9781987976311

Leigh Goff-150 RETMeet the Author:

Writing Enchanting Ever-Afters ♥

Leigh Goff grew up in Maryland where she resides today. Her writing is inspired by an eclectic childhood, a vivid imagination, and compelling historical events. After taking several writing courses in college and attending professional writing workshops after she graduated from the University of Maryland, she joined the Maryland Writers’ Association and Romance Writers of America.

Connect with the Author:

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/LeighGoffAuthor

Twitter:https://twitter.com/leigh_goff

Author Website:  http://leighgoff.com/author/leighgoff/

WAR TORN: A Free Anthology in 7 Realms of Fantasy

Did you like my fantasy/romance serial, The Arranged Marriage? If you haven’t read it, it’s available in seven parts on this blog. Here’s a link to Part 1. For fans of The Arranged Marriage, or of my novels Unintended or Uncharted, which are set in the same world, there’s good news! I’ve written another short story called Unmoored and it’s set to appear in the free anthology, War Tornalong with 6 other fantasy stories by six other fantastic fantasy writers!

War Torn is FREE and available for pre-order now (everywhere you order ebooks, including google, amazon, pronoun and our store), though it launches August 1st. But if you’d like to get your hands on it before then all you have to do is subscribe to Mirror World’s mailing list. I’ll be sending out early release e-books to all of our subscribers as a thank you for being a part of the family and sticking with us this long.

So click here and enter your email to subscribe for your FREE ADVANCE COPY!!

Without further ado, here’s the cover and a bit about what you’ll find in War Torn:

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Seven international authors, reflecting diverse styles from across the fantasy genre, bring you seven short stories that explore the theme, War Torn.

Ambushed by Angela Stevens
(Contemporary Fantasy/ Dark Fantasy) 
When the Black Walker Warriors are ambushed by the Clizyati, a vicious battle ensues. Caught up in its midst is Kanga, the Warrior’s latest recruit. Fighting for his life, Kanga knows whatever the outcome, this may well be the last battle in a war that has raged since the dawn of time.
But when the dust settles, victory and defeat pay the same price.

The Praetorian byD.P Joynes
(Dark Fantasy, Magical Realism, Medical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Time Travel) 
“Flies. Flies everywhere. In blood…” Artorius, the commanding officer of a Roman army, loves the taste of battle, but he hates the stench of blood. Blood gives rise to flies, which he cannot control. And neither can the Time Witch. Despite all her magical powers, the Witch has no control over the actions of living creatures, so she’ll try every time-tested tactic to tempt the Commander, to get Artorius to do her bidding. But his future self has other plans.

Unmoored by Justine Alley Dowsett
(Fantasy Adventure)
Renaud Laurent is a gambler and a sailor taking life as it comes and living only for his next drink. Then, on one fateful night in his favorite port town, civil war threatens and he finds himself having to choose between saving his own hide or risking himself for the sake of a stranger.

The City That Fell by K.L Dimago
(Fantasy Romance)
Keturah has always excelled in magic skills and dreams of becoming a member of court in the city of Lucenskath beneath the leader of Nefeiah, Elias, who has led an era of peace and prosperity. But when she is befriended and wooed by Lucas, a fellow student, she learns of a plot to overthrow Elias and his magic council. Keturah must choose between her love of Lucas and her trust in Elias and decide whether or not to make the ultimate sacrifice.

A Touch Of Magic by Lisa White
(Magical Realism, Paranormal Romance)
Plastic surgeon Jessie Inglewood is staunchly anti-natural medicine. Sure, the owner of the local health food store is sexy, but there’s no way she’s going to the “dark side” and dating a natural health hippy! No, she’s seen a lot of ridiculous things in her clinic over the years, and as far as she’s concerned, holistic nutritionists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and crystal waving energy healers are all the same: unethical quacks and charlatans peddling false hope to the vulnerable. Jessie’s very comfortable with her judgement… until a woman in white appears at her clinic one night and gives her an extraordinary gift – the ability to heal people. Jessie has a choice to make: keep giving hands-on miracles to people or give up her gift so she can have her old life back – the one where her colleagues don’t view her as one of the quacks she used to criticize.

The Fortress by Lorel Clayton 
(Fantasy/ Steampunk)
No one is infallible, but some people cannot afford to be wrong, not when lives are at stake. In this story from the world of Eva Thorne, visit The Fortress, where a line in the sand has been drawn to keep the living safe from the god of death. Meet the man who guards that line.

Paid In Blood by Tiger Hebert
(Dark Epic Fantasy)
Harlyx, a wealthy and quite possibly mad old man is wanted for treason after stealing a powerful artifact. His hired hand, Alduran, now finds himself on the run with the crazy old man as a king’s army hunts them down. Alduran isn’t so sure that their flight across the desert sands won’t get them killed, but if he’s learned one thing about old Harlyx, it’s that his mysterious knack for avoiding calamity is at its greatest as the noose draws tightest. It’s a mystery Alduran is ready to explore. Besides, the pay is right.

 

 

The Arranged Marriage – Part 7 (Finale!)

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Also, check out the novels set in the same world: Unintended and Uncharted.

***

Cielle was out of her hiding spot in a flash and in no time at all, she rolled to her feet.

“You get off of her, you… you pig!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, brandishing the dagger she didn’t even remember pulling out of her bosom.

Branton slowly, blearily raised his face from Larissa’s chest, his lazy drunken gaze widening at the sight of her. “Who the hell are you?” He demanded.

“Your arch nemesis!” Cielle proclaimed, hardly thinking now as she dived forward, dagger out before her.

She was aiming for his exposed genitalia, but at the last second, Branton found the presence of mind to at least roll partially out of the way. The dagger dove fully into the flesh of his leg right through the thick leather of his pants, which he hadn’t bothered to fully remove prior to attempting to mount his victim.

Branton screamed, the pain shocking him very efficiently out of his inebriated state as Larissa, now free from her new husband’s weight, scrambled to get herself out of the bed. Shocked by what she’d done, even if it was sort her intention in coming here, Cielle backed up slowly, her eyes trained on the screaming Lord and the way his blood pooled darkly around the hilt of her brother’s silver dagger protruding from his leg.

“I’m sorry…” Cielle whispered into the Lord’s screams, feeling at a loss.

“Don’t be!” Larissa told her forcefully, propelling herself from the bed and slamming bodily into Cielle.

Cielle was slow to register that Larissa was now in her arms, just like she’d intended. “Larissa, I…” She began.

“I love you,” Larissa exclaimed, against all of Cielle’s expectations, before her soft lips fell upon Cielle’s searchingly, demandingly.

Cielle gave into the moment, let her lips melt into Larissa’s, let her tongue explore this taste of freedom. It was over too quickly as Larissa pulled away. “What about him?”

Cielle struggled to bring Lord Branton back into focus past the haze of bliss her mind had become. In the interim the Lord’s screaming had fallen silent and he was watching them, his jaw open a little. His loosened pants showed clearly his arousal. Cielle immediately felt her anger return.

“We leave him,” she stated forcefully. “He doesn’t deserve you.”

“But where would we go? What would we do? My family…”

“Doesn’t deserve you either,” Cielle cut her off, her anger seething. “They…they sold you to him!”

Larissa’s head lowered in sadness or in pain, Cielle didn’t know. Maybe it was shame, either way, Larissa knew as well as Cielle did that there would be no returning back to the Arbor House after this.

“I…” Larissa began, “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You won’t,” Cielle told her. “It’s you and me against the world now, Larissa. I’ll keep you safe…” She turned her attention back to Branton who licked his lips, watching them, his drunken stupor having fallen back over him somewhat now that the immediate danger had passed. “Starting now.”

Cielle advanced on Branton like one might advance on a rattlesnake. She knew he was dangerous and she knew what he wanted from her… from them both. She darted inwards and her hand grasped the cool hilt of her brother’s dagger just as Branton’s hand clamped warmly down on her wrist. She had only a split second to escape him, she knew. Grimacing, she twisted the handle of the dagger and Branton let go of her, crying out in additional pain. She used that moment to jump back, well out of his reach, grab Larissa’s hand and head straight for the window.

There she grabbed hold of the makeshift ladder she’d constructed from Branton’s spare shirts and sheets she’d found in the armoire and carefully helped Larissa over the sill of the open window. “There, just like the treehouse back at the D’Arbonne House,” she coaxed Larissa through her uneasiness, “just slide down slowly and don’t let go. I’ll be right behind you.”

Her heart pounding fiercely with exhilaration, or perhaps just the sudden absence of fear, Cielle made one last visual sweep of the room. Spotting a thick looking brocade robe, she snatched it up, hoping to use it to cover the flimsy nightgown the servants had dressed Larissa in. Robe in hand, she swung herself over the window ledge and made quick and sure-footed work of  following her best friend and the love of her life out the window and down to the balcony below.

Behind them, through the open window, Lord Branton’s wails of anguish continued long after they’d found their way out of the castle’s thick walls, but it didn’t matter. They were free and they were together and right now, that was all either of them cared about.

The end.

***

Thanks for reading!

The Arranged Marriage – Part 6

Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Unintended, Uncharted.

***

Cielle saw less and less of Branton’s hairy chest as he advanced on Larissa. His heavy black-booted feet stopped just shy of her friend’s toes and a moment later his billowy white dress shirt hit the floor beside them both. Cielle’s breath caught in her throat at the sight.

Oh crap! What am I doing here?! Cielle immediately panicked at the gravity of the situation she found herself in. I’m under the bed… if I don’t stop this… She had to stop herself from following that line of thought. No! I’ll just have to stop it before it happens! I won’t let Larissa… or me for that matter… be subjected to that… that…. man!

She returned her focus to the situation at hand just as a heavy leather belt clasp jangled and then joined the white fabric on the floor. Cielle fought back her fear and dread and forced herself to keep watching, keep listening, for Larissa’s sake.

Larissa’s toes curled and she rubbed them together. Cielle could just make out the breathy almost panicked quality of her friend’s breathing. Hold on, Larissa. I’ll get you out of this, I promise.

“Why don’t you make yourself comfortable?” Branton suggested, his thick Italian accent slurring, and even from where she lay, Cielle could smell the sour wine wafting from his breath.

Larissa’s ankles got slowly and hesitantly closer to where Cielle hid, until she was near enough that Cielle could reach out and touch her if she chose. She fought the temptation to do so. Alerting Larissa to her presence now would only frighten her more. Larissa sat so gingerly on the edge of the tall mattress that Cielle neither felt nor heard any protest from the bed frame.

“That’s better.” Cielle could hear Branton’s smile as he advanced and Cielle clenched her eyes shut, not wanting to watch the heavy boots place themselves between Larissa’s dainty legs.

It wasn’t long before she felt the oppressive weight of the oversized muscular Lord on the bed above her. This time the bedframe around her did protest and she heard the thick wood creak. Cielle withdrew within herself, horrified by what she was about to bear witness to, even if she couldn’t see it. Perhaps, hearing it from the isolation of beneath the bed was almost worse.

With every shift of the Lord’s weight the bed frame creaked and Cielle withdrew further wishing fervently that she’d never come to Welland at all, never attended Larissa’s wedding and never plotted this doomed rescue attempt. Heavy breathing above her filled the air with the sour stench of wine and she choked on the smell, knowing that however bad it was for her here, was nothing compared to how terrible it was for Larissa…

A soft choking sob broke through all the other sounds assaulting her senses. Larissa!

***

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The Arranged Marriage – Part 5

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. The novels: Unintended and Uncharted.

***

In the end, the Lord’s room was easy enough to find. It was the largest and highest room in the castle, except for maybe a small tower or two, there was nothing above it. Extra careful not to make too much noise in case of a stray servant or guard, Cielle let herself in through the massive double doors, and shut them softly behind her.

The room was garishly decorated in reds and golds with accents of green. She fought back a wave of nausea that was either caused by the effect of the colours on her senses or the fear caused by what she was about to do. I have to do something! Cielle affirmed silently. I know Larissa doesn’t want to be married to this old man, no matter how rich he is… The Arbors are forcing her because it’s the only way they can keep people thinking that their House is still as strong as it once was. She shouldn’t have to suffer for her family’s greed and ambition, it’s not fair!

Feeling determined now, Cielle set about setting up her plan and then slid herself underneath the gigantic four-poster bed, making sure to position herself so that she could see out a slit in the bed skirt. She managed to lay there motionless for a time, but eventually the boredom, or the long day she’d had, began to take its toll on her and she drifted off to thoughts of Larissa floating on a cloud, draped in white lace and nothing else.  

She awoke with a start to the sound of many slippered feet sweeping from the room. Peering into the now dim light of the bedroom, Cielle could just make out a billow of white fabric where it lay draped over the dressing screen and though the many pairs of slippered feet she’d heard were now gone, there was still one pair of feet in the room and those were bare.

I’d recognize those feet anywhere! Cielle’s mind jolted even more firmly awake as she saw the opportunity she’d been waiting for. She began to wriggle herself free from her hiding place when the double doors opened without warning admitting a very large, very muscular and very drunk Lord.

Cielle immediately retreated back into the dark confines of the underside of the bed, feeling her heartbeat quicken with fear and dread combined. No, no, no!

“Larissa!” The Lord slurred loudly, looking over his new bride. Cielle could just make out Branton’s upper body from her vantage point. His shirt was mostly open revealing a thick coat of dark curly hair and his arms were spread wide as if he expected Larissa to run straight into them.

“My lord husband,” Cielle heard her friend intone without much inflection and the dainty nude feet stayed exactly where they were. She’s saying that because he expects her to. Her heart went out to Larissa. She must be so scared right now.

Cielle fought her desire to run out in defence of her friend. If I expose myself now, I’ll just get kicked out and then I’ll lose the only chance I have to stop this marriage from being consummated. She gagged on the word. And I must do that at all costs!

***

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The Arranged Marriage – Part 4

Find Part 1, 2, and 3 here. Or check out the novels set in the same world; Unintended and Uncharted. Otherwise, read on!

***

There was no more time to dwell on the issue of the dagger though. At that very moment, the musicians began to play the wedding march and Cielle twirled in her seat to look back at the start of the aisle. Sure enough, there was a bride there, radiantly dressed in the widest white dress Cielle had ever seen.

Cielle’s breath caught in her throat as her best friend drifted closer as if she was walking on a cloud. The white fabric billowed around her, flowing like the waves in the bay and the intricate lace of the bodice creeped upwards and gently caressed her soft curves. Cielle swallowed with some difficulty and forced herself to breathe as normally as she could.

Damn, she’s beautiful.

Her gaze followed Larissa as she made her way up the length of the aisle until she came to stand beside Lord Branton. Cielle’s expression shifted rapidly from awestruck to livid within seconds. The flush in her cheeks remained the same, though, so outwardly there was nothing to alarm Cyril or anyone else.

Halfway through the ceremony, Cielle finished solidifying her plan in her mind. It was difficult from that point onward to remain seated and to keep the determined grimace from her face.

“Whoa there,” Cyril commented sometime later, after dinner had been served. “You look like you’re going to run someone through with that fork. Are you that hungry?”

Cielle had to force herself to lower the fork slowly back to its place on the table. “Yeah, actually, I’m starved,” she lied. “They look about done now… I’m going to go see if I can find some appetizers.”

“Yeah, ok,” Cyril agreed, oblivious to her true intentions. “Grab me a few of those pastries I smelled on the way in, would you?”

She plastered the most convincing smile she could onto her face. “Sure thing, bro. Be right back!”

She made her way to the hors d’oeuvres table before she banked sharply to the right and scooted into the kitchen. Weaving between bustling servants preparing to haul the feast out to hungry guests, Cielle made quick work of crossing unfamiliar territory until she found herself in a silent hallway. Whew… She allowed herself a moment to catch her breath as she looked first down one long hallway and then another. I should have thought to ask someone where the Lord’s bedchamber was! She cursed her lack of foresight. But then I might have raised suspicion… No, better to find it on my own. Besides, I should have plenty of time before the Lord and his new Lady ‘retire’ for the evening.

The thought of Lord Branton Wilkes putting his hands on Larissa was almost enough to make her gag. He won’t touch her! Cielle avowed. Not if I have anything to do with it!

***

As usual, please leave your thoughts and comments below and subscribe or check back for parts 5 through 7!

The Arranged Marriage – Part 3

Find Parts 1 and 2. Or check out the novels set in this same world; Unintended and Uncharted. Otherwise, keep reading!

***

Cielle fought back the urge to punch her twin brother as their boat came to rest alongside the port. Using the disembarking of the ship as her chance to fade back into anonymity again, Cielle ducked behind Cyril in the crowd and hoped for one that the similarities in their appearance would cause people to think her brother had been the one to make a fool of himself instead of her.

They’d cut it close. With the risk of storms on the bay so late into the season, their boat had only made it across on the day of the wedding. By the time Cyril and Cielle reached the port, Lord Branton was already lost in a crowd of well-wishers and being whisked back to his castle on the north coast of the small peninsula. Cielle let out her breath in relief. At least I don’t have to face him… yet.

Cyril tugged her by the arm and made her keep pace with the throng. “Come on, we don’t want to be late!”

But her mind was not on current events or her surroundings. She ignored the sights and sounds of Wilkesport and was distantly grateful for her brother’s sure grip on her arm as he led her through the city. Internally, Cielle was furiously plotting. Lord Branton not being the lazy fat man I was expecting is going to make things a lot more difficult, she reasoned.

Between one thought and the next, Cielle reached out and pilfered her brother’s dagger. She’s always been quick with her hands and Cyril didn’t even notice the blade’s loss. Cielle grimaced at herself as she tucked the sheathed blade between her breasts before Cyril thought to glance back at her. With luck, he won’t realize it’s gone. And if he does, he’ll think someone on the boat or in the crowd took it. Well, that’s true enough, anyways. I was on the boat and in the crowd.

Their seats were far enough away from the front that Cielle felt safe enough that Lord Branton wouldn’t spot her and identify her from the boat, but she also felt kind of insulted at the distance. I know I’m not a member of her family, but I’m still one of the few people here in support of the bride! Cielle silently fumed. Other than Larissa’s immediate family, the rest of these people are all snooty Wellish nobles. What gives them the right to sit closer to Larissa on her big day than me?

“This is really hard on you, isn’t it?” Cyril questioned, noticing the pout that was forming on her face.

Cielle wanted to retort, but she sensed that her twin was being genuine this time. “Well, you’d be just as pissed if you were stuck at the back of Garron’s wedding, wouldn’t you?”

“Touche,” Cyril murmured in response, absently reaching for his belt and the dagger that was no longer there.

Shit! I shouldn’t have brought up Garron D’Arbonne! The dagger that’s been making me uncomfortable for the last hour was a present from him and Cyril never goes anywhere without it!

Cyril’s hand fumbled around his belt a moment before his expression became alarmed. “Cielle, have you seen my dagger?”

Cielle winced guiltily, but she’d come too far now to admit her crimes. “Who brings a dagger to a wedding anyways…?” She said by way of a diversion and then immediately felt terrible for making Cyril worry that he’d lost his prized possession. The clever explanation she’d come up with fizzled on her tongue. “Are you sure you brought it? Maybe you left it at home, or forgot it on the boat?”

“Maybe…” Cyril answered, unconvinced.

***

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