Thursday, June 22, 2017

Calum (Highland Gargoyles 5) by Lisa Carlisle


Title: Calum

Author: Lisa Carlisle

Series: Highland Gargoyles #5

Genre: Paranormal Romance



Blurb


When a short-term mission turns into a battle between love and duty...



Calum lives for thrills both on and off stage as lead singer of the Knights of Stone. During a night flight, he witnesses a dragon chasing a pegasus and his gargoyle instincts kick in. When the rescued pegasus turns out to be a beautiful shifter named Arielle, he sets off on a dangerous mission to help her.



Arielle never should have wandered from her pegasi herd. Not only did she attract the attention of a dragon who wants to steal her magic, but they've ended up lost in another realm. If she even makes it through the night, how will she ever return home?



Calum and Arielle’s chance encounter in the Scottish Highlands turns into something more. Can Calum help Arielle return to her realm, when he wants to convince her to stay?



For a hot Highland shifter series set on a mystical isle shared by gargoyles, tree witches, and wolf shifters, meet the brothers in the Knights of Stone today!

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Excerpt


Calum needed to fly, to escape the claustrophobic confines of the pub in Inverness. Only flight could provide relief from the stuffiness closing in around him. The stale stench of beer and perspiration tingled his nostrils. The din of voices around him reverberated in his head. The Knights of Stone, the band he and his brothers had created, had played until midnight. Although the lassies surrounded him after their set, as they often did, he avoided their attention to head for the exit.



“You’re not leaving again, are you?” his older brother, Gavin, asked.



“I need air.”



“It’s the third time in a fortnight. Something’s definitely off with you lately.”



Maybe Gavin was right. Calum’s usual restlessness had shifted recently. Instead of chasing the lasses after the rush onstage as front man of their band, he’d been escaping to the wide-open space of the night skies.



He searched the shadowy area behind the brick building for a hidden spot where he could shift to his winged form. Humans were out this evening, but none were attracted to the dark alley.



Calum cloaked himself before shifting. He flew away from the club up toward the crescent moon, which was clouded by a swirl of mist. Nothing like soaring through the night to invigorate him. Flight calmed him, as it did for most gargoyles. While he spent much of the day restoring his energy in stone form under the sun, at night he came alive. He’d then pursue one of his three favorite activities — flying, performing, or—entertaining. He smirked. He and Gavin relished the female attention, especially after their three brothers had found mates. Since their brothers had placed bets on who’d be next to find a mate, both Calum and Gavin pushed to the extreme to avoid it.



Although Calum still burned from the rush on stage, something was missing. He had everything he thought he’d wanted with the band and living with his brothers in their small clan on the Isle of Stone, yet he sought solitude in flight more often.



Why he did plagued his mind as he sought the clarity during the flight. A short break had turned into a longer flight, full of introspection. Calum soared farther than he’d planned, along Loch Ness and then inland. The shadowed mountain peaks ahead framed a foreboding entryway under the lingering fog that clouded the night.



He paused, hovering in the air. His gargoyle instincts flared. Something was off. He engaged all his senses, listening for a sign of distress, anything to identify the source of his unease. He flew deeper inland, the rolling fields darker than emeralds under the stars, and the disturbing sensation heightened.

Meet the Author


Lisa Carlisle is a USA Today Bestselling author of romance and suspense. She loves stories with dark, brooding heroes and independent, caring heroines. Lisa feels very honored to be a multi-published author since she's wanted to write since the sixth grade. Her travels have provided her with inspiration for various settings in her novels. She backpacked alone through Europe, and lived in Paris before returning to the U.S. Now she lives in New England with her husband, two children, a cat, and many fish.



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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Three of a Kind (The Drift 4 ) by Susan Hayes


Title: Three of a Kind
Author: Susan Hayes
Series: The Drift, Book 4
Genre: Sci-Fi romance, Menage

Blurb

When the chips are down and the stakes are high, winning takes three of a kind
Dr. Alyson Jefferies treats everyone who comes through the doors of her medical clinic, regardless of species or social standing. The corporations who run the Drift don’t approve of her open-door policy, but Alyson is determined to fight for her patients, no matter what.
Cyborg brothers Dirk, Blade, and Lance Trello were designed for combat, but the Resource Wars ended before they drew their first breath. Soldiers without a war, they drift from place to place, looking for a purpose and a reason to settle down.

When corporate secrets and hidden agendas put Alyson’s life in peril, the three hot-blooded brothers know they’ve found a cause worth fighting for. They are going to protect their defiant doctor—while trying to convince her that sometimes the best things in life come in threes.
Book is on sale for 20% off until June 25th, 2017

Excerpt

When she yawned for the third time, she decided it was time for a cup of tea. That would keep her going for another hour or so. She headed to the kitchen, and stopped short when Dirk appeared in the hall in front of her.

“Your bedroom is in the other direction.”

“Yes, it is. But the kitchen is where the tea is.” She tried to step around him, but he folded his arms across his chest and moved in front of her again.

“You don’t need tea. You need sleep.”

“I’m fine. I learned to go without sleep while I was in med school.” She tapped his forearm with her finger. “So, if you’d get out of my way I’ll go get my tea.”

“Not going to happen. You’ve had a hell of a day, and you’re exhausted. I’m not a doctor, but even I can tell you’re pushing yourself too hard.”

She stifled another yawn and pointed toward the kitchen. “I’ll sleep in an hour. I promise.”

“Are you always this stubborn?” he asked, but his lips were turned up into a grin that belied the annoyed tone in his voice.

“Always.” She hadn’t gotten this far in her career, or her life, by backing down, and she wasn’t going to start now.

“Noted. But you’re still not getting your way. Not this time.”

He moved so fast she didn’t have time to do more than blink before he bent over and hauled her over one massive shoulder. When he straightened, she yelped in surprise and started kicking and squirming. She knew it was hopeless, but she wasn’t going to suffer through this indignity without a fight. Her fuzzy slippers thumped against his side, and every time they connected, dots of purple lights danced across the walls and ceiling.

Put me down, you jerk!”

He clamped an arm across the back of her thighs, locking down her legs and started walking down the hall, away from the kitchen. “I’ll put you down when we get to your bedroom.”

She smacked her hand against his ass, which was the only part of him she could reach as she dangled off his shoulder. “I was wrong. You’re not jerk. You’re an asshole. You know what’s worse than eavesdropping? This. This is worse.”

A door slid open somewhere in front of them, but all she could see was Dirk’s broad back.

“I heard yelling. Is everything okay?”

She wriggled again. “No, it’s not. You’re supposed to be my bodyguard, so help me! Make Dirk put me down right now.”

“Uh, Dirk, is there a reason our protectee is upside down and royally pissed off?”

“She needs to go to bed and is too stubborn to admit it. So, I’m escorting her there.”

“Uh huh.” Blade appeared beside her, grinning from ear-to-ear. “Cute slippers.”

“You’re not going to help?”

“I’m not. You need rest. You aren’t any good to anyone if you’re too tired to think.”

“You’re both assholes.” She gave up arguing and went limp.

“Yeah, but we’re still right. Good night, Doc.” Blade gave her a jaunty wave and vanished from sight again, still chuckling.


Meet the Author



Susan lives on Vancouver Island, off the Canadian west coast where the waters are patrolled by orcas and the sighting of snowflakes leads to citywide panic. She’s jumped out of perfectly good airplanes on purpose and accidently swum with sharks on the Great Barrier Reef.

If the world ends, she plans to survive as the spunky, comedic sidekick to the heroes of the new world, because she’s too short and out of shape to make it on her own for long.



Author Web & Social Media links:

Website link: http://susanhayes.ca

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SHayesRomance or @SHayesRomance

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A Beautiful Danger by Lilliana Anderson




Title: A Beautiful Danger
Series: Beautiful #7
Author: Lilliana Anderson
Genre: New Adult Romance
Release Date: June 21, 2017





Blurb


Bad boys. They’ve been Ruby Garvan’s weakness since she
started dating. But, when one of them took the ‘bad’ in the ‘boy’ too far, her
bones broke… along with her spirit.
She swore she’d never go down that road again. Her next
boyfriend would be a ‘nice guy’—a man with integrity, goals and a heart of
gold.
Armed with a stack of inspirational quotes and a list of
traits her new man must have, Ruby goes in search of her happily ever after.
She’s convinced she’s found it with her self-defence
instructor—a kind hearted man named Joel, who cares for her deeply. But when
Flynn Trotsky literally slams into her life with the force of a steam train, he
quickly derails her plans with his unwavering interest and refusal to take no
for an answer.
After a drunken night of far too much honesty, the two
strike a deal—two weeks for Flynn to show Ruby that he’s not the bad boy she
thinks he is. If he can’t convince her, he’ll go away for good this time.
Ruby doesn’t think he stands a chance against her resolve to
turn her life around, and agrees to get the pesky dare-devil out of her way and
hopefully out of her mind.
But, when your friends are all on his side, the chemistry
just might be too palpable for even the most stubborn red-head to ignore…. 




Standalone New Adult Romance featuring mature scenes.







Purchase Links

AMAZON US / UK / CA / AU






Also Available









Author Bio

Bestselling
Author of the Beautiful Series, Drawn, and 47 Things, Lilliana has always loved
to read and write, considering it the best form of escapism that the world has
to offer.



Australian born and bred, she writes New Adult Romance revolving around her
authentically Aussie characters with all the quirks you’d expect from those
born Down Under.



Lilliana believes the world should know Australia for more than just its
beaches and outback. Book after book, she successfully brings to life city and
suburban characters much to her readers’ delight.



When she isn't writing, she wears the hat of 'wife and mother' to her husband
and four children.



Before
Lilliana turned to writing, she worked in a variety of industries and studied
humanities and communications before transferring to commerce/law at
university.



Originally from Sydney's Western suburbs, she currently lives a fairly quiet
life in suburban Melbourne.




Author Links

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Musings: An Argyle Empire Anthology

MusingsEbook
Title: Musings: An Argyle Empire Anthology
Authors: Becca Vry, Kris Babe, Shari Ivey, Tara Severance, Susan K Swords, Jennifer Locklear, Morgan Locklear
Genre: Comedy. Romance. Suspense. Fantasy. Drama. Prose.
Release Date: June 20
Goodreads
Synopsis
Seven friends inspired to raise awareness and funds for homeless youth in crisis. 

 Seven authors with a love for storytelling. 

Nine original stories with themes every reader will love. 

 Comedy. Romance. Suspense. Fantasy. Drama. Prose. 

 Individual reflections combined into an eclectic collection. 

 All proceeds to benefit the Philadelphia chapter of Covenant House, in loving memory of Terry Aisenstein. 

 Foreword by Sylvain Reynard. 

 Musings Included: 
Kris Babe: Walking After Midnight 
Shari Ivey: Stranger in a Stranger Land 
Jennifer Locklear: Aurora 
Morgan Locklear: House Rules 
Tara Severance: Slash Pine 
Susan K. Swords: Better Than Yes 
Susan K. Swords: Everyone Deserves an HEA 
Becca Vry: Hopescapes 
Morgan Locklear & Susan K. Swords: STUD

IMG_20170518_111020_690 IMG_20170519_072005_434 IMG_20170522_071512_313IMG_20170521_122232_357 IMG_20170526_065426_862IMG_20170525_074220_895 IMG_20170528_074835_286IMG_20170527_150221_214 9 stud ML SS

Buy Links

AMAZON * AMAZON UK * AMAZON AU * AMAZON CA

About the Author

BECCA VRY

Becca
A Chicago native who prefers highrise living and hasn't owned or driven a car in over twenty years, Vry is a married, stay-at-home mother of two daughters. When not doing the mom thing, she can be found at Art Galleries, poetry readings, creating something on a canvas or through her keyboard, bounding in the mosh pit at a concert with her beloved husband Maximilian, or on the dance floor of her favorite Chicago Goth/Industrial haunts. No matter the setting, she is usually wearing black and her sidewalk-stomping Doc Martens. 

 Vry is now branching out into original prose with her first release, Hopescapes. It's an inspirational short story that will appear in Musings: An Argyle Empire Anthology. The story is about the evolution of lifescapes and how the promise of new beginnings inspire many dreamscapes. The theme of this story centers on emerging from the embers of profound loss and hopelessness, to realizing the importance of survival, ongoingness, and the power that comes from re-learning the language of happiness...Two strangers discover that the journey to happiness often comes at a tragic price – the conversation between them, and the connections they realize they share, will alter their perspectives in the most unexpected ways. They will never look at the Chicago skyline, or the broadening hopescapes that expand before them, in the same way ever again. 

 Vry hopes to release a couple of steamy romances in the near future...if her muse cooperates.

KRIS BABE

Kris
Reader, writer, editor. Marketer by day. 

Politically opinionated. Not fully dressed without a scarf.

So many books, so little time. And so many favorites: The Blind Assassin, Jane Eyre, The Poisonwood Bible, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Goldfinch, The Gargoyle, The Dead, the vastly underappreciated Forsyte Saga, almost everything by Dickens. 

 Outlander and Twific, Shakespeare and Tolkien. IKR? 

 Yes, I’ve read Ulysses. Yes, I liked the Dublin Murder Squad series better. (And I never did read Finnegan’s Wake—sorry, Professor Boyle).

SHARI IVEY


A graduate of Valparaiso University, I have dabbled in creative writing on and off since middle school days (first place in that 8th-grade creative writing contest!). My novella, Stranger in a Stranger Land, in Musings: An Argyle Empire Anthology, is my first published work. 

 When not working or writing, I am an avid music fan, concert goer, television binger and movie watcher. I am divorced with five children - two furry, three not. I am also probably the person in the car next to you, singing like a mad woman or cursing like a sailor. 

 My genre tends toward fantasy, paranormal and supernatural.

TARA SEVERANCE

Tara
Tara Severance writes in her scant spare time, hoping that one day she'll be able to quit her day job. The Short suspense story, Slash Pine, is featured in the Musings Anthology. If you love mysteries that might be happening in your own backyard, you'll find something here.

SUSAN  K SWORDS

Susan

Jennifer Locklear

Jennifer
Jennifer Locklear lives in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. She married her high school sweetheart, Morgan, in 1995. She is the mother of two children, a son and daughter. 

 Jennifer enjoyed creative writing as an adolescent, but set aside her favorite hobby to concentrate on college studies, career and family. In 2010, she rediscovered her passion for writing when her husband recruited her to edit his own stories. They co-authored and published their debut novel, Exposure, in 2014. 

 Since 2000, Jennifer has been employed in fundraising and development for a non-profit organization. She has been a contributing reviewer for the “Bookish Temptations” book blog and is a founding moderator of “Argyle Empire,” an approved fan site for author Sylvain Reynard. She also enjoys participating in charitable activities, both locally and online

MORGAN LOCKLEAR

Morgan
Morgan and Jennifer Locklear met in 1989 as teenagers and became high school sweethearts. They have been married since 1995 and live in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States with their two children, a son and daughter. 

 Although both enjoyed creative writing in their youth, they have only been working as a writing team since 2010. Since then they have created a dozen full-length and short stories together. 

 Jennifer has been employed in fundraising and development for a non-profit organization since 2000. She also enjoys participating in charitable activities, both locally and online. In her (limited) free time she is an avid reader. 

 Morgan has been employed in the hospitality industry since 1998. He has been active in the local performing arts community since childhood with many acting and directing credits to his name. He is also a musician and songwriter and has recorded 6 albums.


MusingsFull

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Hyde's Absolution by Nina Levine

The highly anticipated fourth book from Nina Levine’s Sydney Storm MC is available now!

Are you reading to meet this possessive biker?





The Sydney Storm MC are back and war is coming.

Monroe Lee is a handful.
She fights me, challenges me and tries to resist me.

Where I’m jagged, she’s smooth.
Where I’m dark, she’s pure.
Where I’m broken, she’s whole.

I am not a good man.
I’ve hurt everyone I’ve ever loved.
I should walk away before I ruin her too.

But fuck, we are fire together.
And I’ve been out in the cold too long.
At a time when everything is falling down around me, she might just be my saviour.

This story contains all the panty-melting sexiness and alpha goodness that Nina Levine books are known for.

Order your copy today to receive the LIMITED EDITION ebook version that will have a BONUS King chapter in it!  All release week copies will contain this bonus chapter.

DOWNLOAD HYDE'S ABSOLUTION

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READ AN EXCERPT FROM HYDE'S ABSOLUTION



I tore my attention from Hyde and gave it back to Tatum when she said, “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Hyde’s presence had pretty much wiped all coherent thought from my mind, so I simply nodded and murmured, “Okay.”

As she and Nitro walked away from us, Hyde moved closer. His scent almost hypnotised me, if that was even possible. Looking down at me, he said, “What are you drinking?” The husky tone of his voice was like the final nail in my coffin. He could lead me down the path to sin with that voice.

“A cosmo please.”

He turned to the waiting bartender and ordered drinks before shifting his gaze back to me. His body was so damn close it almost pressed against mine. His eyes dropped to my chest. “You weren’t made to be subtle, were you, sugar?”

“Can’t say that word’s in my vocabulary, no.” The way he was devouring my body told me I’d made the best decision when I bought the black dress I wore tonight. Knee length with a plunging neckline and accentuated with a belt around my waist, it clung to every curve I had. My girls were up and proudly out, just the way I liked them. I mean, if you had it, flaunt it, right? And I’d had the red in my hair touched up that afternoon. It hung in lazy vivid red curls to just below my breasts. I wasn’t sure which part of me he thought wasn’t subtle, but I guessed it had something to do with my dress by the way he seemed unable to draw his gaze from my body.

Finally he found his way back up to my face. The heat flashing in his eyes shot a round of lust through my veins. Good God, this man, though. I wondered if he had any idea of the storm he caused within me. “Don’t ever add it.” If what he said didn’t make my legs sway a little, the forceful, gravelly way he said it did.

The bartender placed our drinks on the counter, distracting us from each other. Hyde dropped some cash on the bar, took a mouthful of his whisky and looked back at me while I got down as much of my drink as I could in one mouthful. God knew, I needed it. I could stand my ground with any man, but Hyde had a way of catching me off guard.

“You calm down after that thing about owing me money this morning?” And there he went, flipping my feelings about him on their head.

I fixed him with a look that let him know I wasn’t impressed. “I didn’t have anything to calm down from.”

“You seemed all worked up about it.”

I threw some more of my cocktail down my throat. “I wasn’t.” But I was getting there now, that was for sure.

He drank some more whisky, keeping his eyes steady on mine. “Okay.”

Okay? Oh no he didn’t. He didn’t get to end a conversation with that bullshit. “Okay? Seriously, you’re going to end with that?”

“It seemed pointless to argue.”

I finished my drink and placed the empty glass down with some force. Sliding off my stool, I said, “We weren’t arguing. I was simply telling you like it was.”

“Yeah, I’ve picked that up about you.”

My eyes practically popped out of their sockets. “Picked up what about me?”

“That you like to tell men like it is.”

“I do not! You just have this way of pushing my buttons. I feel like it’s you, not me.”

His lips twitched. “Sugar, if I knew which buttons I was pushing, I’d push them some more. I never said I didn’t like the way you told me how it was.”

I snatched my bag off the bar. I needed a moment to get my thoughts under control. In the space of seconds I’d switched from wanting him to wanting to smack him to wanting him again. My mind needed a break from the whiplash. I took a step away from the bar and said, “I’ll have another cosmo.”

Without waiting for his response, I headed in the direction of the ladies room. I’d almost made it there when a hand slid around my waist and I was pushed up against the wall in the dark hallway. A hard body pushed against mine as the hand around my waist slid down to settle on my ass and warm breath whispered across my cheek. “My cock likes that attitude of yours. Surprised the fuck outta me, but I can’t deny I want more of it.”

The proof of his statement ground against me, sparking need all over me. Every inch of my skin blazed with desire. I gripped his shirt with both hands and found his eyes. “You and I weren’t made for each other, Hyde.”

“I’m not saying we were.”

My body went to war with my mind. It fought me kicking and screaming, desperate for what he was offering, but I didn’t want to surrender. “So what’s the point of starting something?”

He pushed his cock harder against me. “I came here against better judgement tonight. Nitro told me you’d be here and I came because I couldn’t, for the fucking life of me, get you out of my head. I want my hands on those curves of yours and my dick as far inside you as you can take it.”

DOWNLOAD HYDE'S ABSOLUTION

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If you haven’t started this series yet, download the first book, Relent, for FREE today and catch up on the series everyone is talking about!





Book One in the new Sydney Storm MC series.

A biker torn between loyalty to his club and love for his woman.

I let Evie Bishop go once. I won’t make that mistake again.

I’ve loved Evie since we were kids, before I found the Storm MC.
Long before I sold my soul to the devil.
I never wanted to bring her into this world, but a man can only go so long without the woman he loves by his side. I need her like I fucking need air and I won’t stop until she’s mine again.
I knew she’d battle me.
I knew I’d have to fight hard for her.
But I never thought I’d be in this predicament—torn between her and my club.
The thing about me, though, is that I’ll do anything for those I love. Even if it could cost me everything.

Standalone Motorcycle Club Romance

This spin-off series can be read without reading the original Storm MC Series.

DOWNLOAD RELENT FREE TODAY

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AUTHOR BIO



Dreamer.
Coffee Lover.
Gypsy at heart.

USA Today Bestselling author who writes about alpha men & the women they love.

USA Today Bestselling Author Nina Levine is an Aussie author who writes alphas with a side of dirty and sassy women who don't hand their hearts over easily.

When she isn't creating with words, she loves to create with paint and paper. Often though, she can be found curled up with a good book and some chocolate.

Sign up to Nina's newsletter for alerts when new alphas are ready for you
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CLICK HERE TO ENTER TO WIN SYDNEY STORM MC MERCHANDISE & SIGNED PAPERBACKS

Monday, June 19, 2017

Rise of the Sea Witch by Stacey Rourke


Title: Rise of the Sea Witch
Author: Stacey Rourke
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Fairy Tale and Folklore
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Anchor Group Publishing
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb: 
Details of the sea witch’s banishment have been exaggerated. The body count that preempted it was not. Once an illustrious princess, her hands and tentacles were stained with the blood of thousands. No one could comprehend how the hooks of madness dragged her down from her life of privilege.  

Born Princess Vanessa of Atlantica, the ambitious young royal was one of two children born to the great King Poseidon. She and her brother, Triton, were groomed from birth to rule. Yet only one would ascend that coveted throne. While carefree Triton flits through his training with a cavalier demeanor and beguiling charm, Vanessa’s hunger for her father’s acceptance drives her to push herself to the limits of magic, and combat to become a leader worthy of her people.   

When war against the humans ravages their once regal kingdom, political sides are chosen. Factions from the seven seas challenge the existing leadership, pitting Vanessa against her brother in a vicious battle for the crown. Traitors are exposed, dark family secrets revealed, and a once strong sibling bond is strained to its breaking point.

Only when the ink black waters from the ultimate betrayal rescind, will the truth be known of how the villainous sea witch rose with one name on her vengeful lips--Triton.


Release Party:


RONE Award Winner for Best YA Paranormal Work of 2012 for Embrace, a Gryphon Series Novel
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013 

Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Adapted for Film. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head. 

Visit her at www.staceyrourke.com
or on Twitter or instagram at Rourkewrites.
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1OJcVNO

Buy Link:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2th8hTW

Prologue


I admit that in the past I was a princess. They weren’t kidding when they called me … well, a spoiled twit.” Tentacles rolling and churning beneath me, I turn to the newest member of my little garden with effortless grace. Arms thrown out wide, I grant the shriveled polyp a beguiling smile. Those around him tremble in fear, pulling as far away from him as their roots deep within the ocean floor will allow. “Through rather unfortunate circumstances it became mandatory I mend my ways. And, yes, some of the techniques I employed earned me the title of villain.”
“Never, my Queen,” Floteson murmurs. Coiling around my upper arm, he drapes himself across my shoulder.
Jetteson’s oily scales lovingly brush my cheek. “Every one of them was deserving of your wrath.”
Shoulders curling in, I pucker my lips which are freshly glossed by a crimson sea-flower and tenderly scratch each of them under their chins. “How horrible can I be to be so adored by such sweet babies?”
“She shows us nothing but love,” my darling zebra sharks chorus.
Their unwavering dedication soothes me, allowing me to expel a calming breath that bubbles in a wreath around my face.
“I am not the horrible beast many think me to be. Yet I feel it is your own misconceptions that brought you here, and led to … well, you know.” Floating passed my ornate vanity mirror, which seems out of place in the dreary cave I call home, I suck in my cheeks. Turning my head one way and then the other, I inspect my reflection. A smug smile curls the corners of my lips. The woman staring back at me is positively voluptuous with power, mayhem swirling within her clay-gray eyes. “Undoubtedly, you’ve heard rumors of my banishment.”
Hitching one eyebrow at my newly planted polyp, I watch him squirm under the weight of my attention.
“Do you even know my true given name, I wonder? Before hateful whisperings from the farthest reaches of the Seven Seas dubbed me The Sea Witch, I went by another name: Princess Vanessa of Atlantica. I harbored dreams of bringing peace and happiness to the kingdom … as their noble queen.”
Jabbing my hands on to my ample hips, I turn in a swirl of black and purple. “I’m not sure if that pitiful pout is caused by your deep longing to hear more, or if you’re mourning the loss of your shriveled limbs. But,” with a theatrical roll of my wrist, I snap my fingers—my cauldron sparks to life, an ethereal green glow simmering from within, “I choose to think the former because it’s about me … and all of my favorite things are.
“It would be predictable for me to say it all began with the death of my mother. Predictable and false.”
Water rushes beneath me with one mighty flap of all my tentacles. The power of the act propels me over to my alchemy shelves, where my fingers flick over the exposed vials. Some days I seek to terrorize my captives, calling out each ingredient or dangling it over their heads before tossing it into my brew.
Tongue of porpoise.
Eye of cuttlefish.
Shell of sea turtle.
I won’t lie and say watching their complexions green and bug eyes bulge isn’t a guilty pleasure of mine. For the moment, however, a wave of generosity—brought on by the mention of my mother—prompts me to toss them in without my usual theatrics. Each is received into the cauldron’s wide-mouth drum with a puff of smoke and spray of sparks.
“As much as I loved my mother, losing her didn’t drive me to madness as some would have you believe.” Hearing the melancholy in my tone, I bristle. “Far from it, in fact. I would have subjected myself to an abysmal existence of the mundane in honor of her memory. No, it was after the black flags of mourning had been strung through the kingdom, after the spectacle of her funeral procession had passed, that my descent began.”
Throwing one final ingredient into the cauldron, a veil of greasy smoke wafts from its rim. Images begin to form within the haze: the king’s regal quarters, and a formidable frame seated in a high-backed chair behind a massive stone desk.
Crouching down, I position myself eye level with the miniscule scene unfolding. My tentacles coil into tight knots beneath me. “This was the night … the night when I was touched by magic for the very first time … and loathed it to my very core.”
Within the ghostly image, the curtain to the king’s quarters is pushed open. A heavy set nursemaid with stripes of gray in the messy twist of her bun swims in. On one hip she balances a cherub-faced baby that’s only two months shy of his second birthday. Blond ringlets halo his head. Both his eyes and cheeks are ruddy from crying. The frazzled servant’s other hand clings to that of a raven-haired princess who rubs at her tired, violet eyes with a chubby, toddler fist.
“If you aren’t following along yet, that princess is me,” I explain to my captive audience. “The maid softly shushing my younger self is Loriana. Oh, how dear she was to me. She was a servant in the castle, tasked with tending to my brother and I. That little sunset orange tail poking out from behind her belongs to her son, Alastor. He was Triton’s best friend and would become much more than that to me ...”



“Sire,” respectfully bowing her head, Loriana readjusted her hold on Prince Triton, “I hate to interrupt.”
My father, King Poseidon, pushed his chair back from the desk in a swirl of water and sand, and rose in greeting. To the rest of the kingdom, he was known as simply the supreme ruler of Atlantica. To me, and my juvenile ignorance, he was the God of the Sea who towered over us all. I envisioned all of his enemies, and anyone that ever wished me harm, falling to their knees and trembling before his commanding presence. His hair and thick beard were the red of Precious Coral. Muscle rippled over every inch of his exposed torso. His narrow waist tapered into an emerald green tail that perfectly matched the shining jewels of his eyes. Countless times I had examined the lines of his face in search of some similarity between the two of us. None could be found. Triton had his smile, and later—when adolescence hit—he would inherit his strong chin. Me? Every inch of me was a lackluster shadow of my mother’s regal beauty. Where her eyes and tail sparkled like freshly polished amethyst, mine seemed dull by comparison. Or, perhaps the lighting from the pedestal I’d built for her in my mind shone for her with a more flattering shimmer.
“The hour is late. I welcome the interruption.” Poseidon set his fish bone quill onto the desk top, and positioned its stone cradle on top of it. “How can I be of service, Loriana?”
 “It’s the children, Your Highness.” Her face a mask of maternal sorrow, Loriana gave my hand a quick pulse of comfort. “This is the first night they have ever tried to go to sleep without a lullaby from their dear mother. I’m afraid I can’t seem to calm their troubled little hearts.”
Poseidon’s broad chest expanded with a deep inhalation, and tipping his head he exhaled a flurry of rushing water and bubbles. “This is a troubling time for us all,” he agreed. Crossing the room with one stroke of his tail, he extended his hands to receive Triton. My brother waved his arms in eager delight, wriggling into the security of Father’s strong embrace. Inching forward, I blinked up at the mighty king. He floated past without so much as ruffling my hair. “I’m afraid I don’t have your mother’s gift of song, but perhaps we could sit a spell and find peace in our togetherness.”
Honoring her position outside of the room, Loriana gave me a gentle push forward to follow my father. Casting a tentative glance over my shoulder, I did just that. Poseidon swirled Triton around, eliciting a giggle that crinkled the corners of his ocean blue eyes, before the king collapsed on the sea sponge sofa with his darling son on his lap. I perched on the very edge of the far cushion, uninvited and unnoticed.
Before that moment our father had been more of a … hmm, how to put this delicately? A figurehead in our lives. We knew of him and regarded him fondly, but unfortunately his kingly duties allowed our primary interactions to be those staged for political potency. Our mother, the lovely Queen Titonis, spent her days caring for my brother and I with only Loriana to aid her. Now, Poseidon had no choice but to pick up the yolk. For Triton this transition seemed to be going swimmingly. I, however, was getting as much attention as the Orca-bone end table.
Hands under the little prince’s pits, Poseidon turned Triton to face him. “I was so proud of how you behaved during the processional today,” he gushed. “You honored not only me, but your mother’s memory when you clasped your tiny fist over your heart and held your head high as her carriage passed.”
“Follow Nessa.” Triton looked to me with love, his tailfin a muted clap when connecting with Father’s lap.
“Your sister has two whole years of further training and experience than you, my boy.” Poseidon’s shoulders raised, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. “You exhibited the poise of a true leader.”
My lips clamped shut to stifle a sob, his words stinging like a slap. I had just as much right to the throne as Triton, but this was the first moment I became painfully aware of who he longed to see succeed him. It would not be the last … or the most painful.
“She held her curtsy so long, merfolk threw flowers!” Alastor, a year and a half older and far more eloquent than Triton, darted into the room to brazenly interject. Mahogany waves curled over his earlobes, adding dimension to his round little face that resembled a bubble. The boldness of his gesture quickly shriveled under Father’s menacing glare.
“The son of a servant entering the king’s quarters?” Father boomed, one eyebrow raising in question. “One might question your upbringing, lad.”
“A thousand apologies, Your Majesty!” Loriana blushed from her neck clear up to her earlobes and snapped her fingers at her wandering boy. “Alastor, come here at once!”
Shoulders sagging like a stone cast to the depths, Alastor returned to his rightful place in the hall. The heat of his topaz stare bore into me as he paddled along, searching for even the slightest acknowledgement of his noble deed.
I had none to offer.
My own gaze had drawn away from my brother, laughing while Father tickled his cheeks with his beard, to scan the items neatly arranged on father’s desk. Inanimate objects which earned his attentions daily just by being. On the right side, closest to his scrawling hand, sat the quill. Its fat little ink pot was perfectly positioned perpendicular beside it. In the center of the desk, weighted by stones carved with the royal crest, rested a stack of scrolls awaiting the king’s notice. On the left-hand corner, Poseidon’s late night snacking needs were met by a plate of rolled and seasoned seaweed puffs.
The ink pot lured my attention back as if calling to me.
I had never had to work for attention in any capacity. My mother had always given it freely, and in limitless supply. Since she had been taken from me, I had unquenched needs: hugs, stories, and all of that … drivel. So, yes, I thought about acting out. I toyed with the idea of knocking over that little clay pot and letting the ink flow to ruin the staged perfection of father’s space. More than that, I wanted to. I wanted to hear him shout out my name in his menacing vibrato, because at least then he would have to acknowledge me. While my hands stayed folded neatly in my lap, as the good little mergirl I was, something within me I had never felt before reached out. Palpable energy, only I seemed privy to, crackled through the water to cradle the pot in its hold. I could feel it, poised and ready, awaiting my command. Biting my lower lip to fend off a threatening grin, my essence gave barely a nudge and the ink pot tumbled. A thick black cloud exploded over my father’s desk, staining the scrolls and ruining the once delectable wraps.
“Vanessa!” thundered my father, rocketing off the sofa. “Look what you’ve done!”
I turned toward him with feigned remorse … and screamed. The howl of terror tore from my chest until my gills ached and my throat was raw.
There was a buzz of activity: Poseidon calling to the nursemaid, Loriana swimming in as fast as her fins could carry her, Triton wailing in fear, Alastor trying to shush his friend from the doorway to which he’d been banished. I neither saw nor heard any of this.
Floating in the center of the room, bobbing with the current, was my mother.
Not the serene vision of loveliness I had known her to be that was full of life and love. Heck, I even would’ve happily settled for the slumbering beauty she appeared to be during her funeral. In vast contrast, the entity hovering before me had chunks of flesh gnawed away by assorted sea beasts. Cracked, ashen lips curled into a snarl. Black ooze bubbled through her teeth, dripping from her chin and clouding the water. My scream reached a fevered pitch, spots dancing before my eyes. The ghoul, who in life sang me to sleep, reached for me with one hand that had been gnawed to bone.
You see, by using magic I opened a door and allowed the darkness in. The cost being more than I could bear, I vowed to myself—as my consciousness waned—never, ever to dabble with such things again.
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves …