Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Available Now: The Sins of the Sire by Emily Royal

Dark Highland Passions Series, #1
Emily Royal



99c/9 through 17 March
FREE on Kindle Unlimited
Two years ago, English noblewoman, Elyssia De Montford, risked her life to free the Highlander held prisoner by her sadistic fiancé. She cannot forget the man who first stirred her heart–a memory that burns anew when she finds herself once more on the road to Scotland.

Tavish MacLean has sworn vengeance. It’s been six years since his beloved sister was raped and murdered by an English lord, a tragedy which almost destroyed his family. On his deathbed, his father demanded retribution and Tavish pledged before his clan to enslave the lord’s daughter then send her back to her father, pregnant with a Scottish bastard. When he learns that she is travelling north, he seizes his opportunity and orders her abduction.

But when his men fling the prisoner before him, Tavish recognises Elyssia, the woman who once saved his life. Loyalty to his clan trumps the debt he owes her and he claims Elyssia as his captive. Though she’s one of the hated English, her willing body ignites passion in him at night, though she fights him at every turn during the day. As time passes, he questions his loyalty, finding himself increasingly enthralled by his fiery captive.

Treachery surrounds Clan MacLean. When long-buried secrets come to light, Tavish must risk his life and his clan, or all that he holds dear will be destroyed.

• • •

The hiss of the whip cut through the silence before a sharp crack made Elyssia look up. Unwilling to watch, she had cast her eyes down, but a morbid fascination pulled her gaze toward the prisoner in the yard.

Standing erect against the whipping post, he radiated strength and defiance. He was not one to surrender. Where others screamed and pleaded for mercy, his only reaction was a slight tensing in his shoulders, a ripple of muscle just before the lash struck, leaving an ugly criss-cross pattern–an English soldier’s handiwork on the body of another Highlander. He tightened his hands into fists, and his arm muscles bulged with tension, yet still, he made no sound. Iron clinked against iron as he strained against the manacles on his wrists which were chained to the post.

A low chuckle to her side gave her enough warning to suppress the shudder of revulsion at her betrothed’s touch before a smooth hand grasped her own. Edward Morland, Earl of Allendyne. Though gallant and chivalrous during his courtship, his sadistic nature had emerged since their betrothal. Once married he would no longer be honour-bound not to violate her. She would cease to exist, other than as his possession to do with as he pleased, as much a prisoner as the man being lashed in the courtyard now.

“What say you, my dear? This one shows unusual strength, even for these animals. I think I may have found my champion. He would provide me with much coin and entertainment back at Allendyne.”

“I know not, my lord. I have no interest in such forms of entertainment.”

Though she spoke quietly, the prisoner turned his head in her direction. Her skin tightened as two eyes the colour of summer grass fixed their gaze upon her. Even at a distance, their intensity made her skin tighten and a warmth of guilt spread through her. A spark of hatred flashed in their green depths before another crack snapped across the air, and the whip struck again. But this time he let out a grunt of pain. He closed his eyes and bit his lip. A crimson droplet bloomed on his mouth.

Mirroring his gesture, she licked her own lips, dry with anticipation. He opened his eyes again. Bright with pain, they focused on her, calling to her; twin souls connecting across a dark chasm. Her consciousness circled inwards, magnifying her heartbeat which pulsed in her ears.

Though she tried, she could not avert her eyes. Palms slick with sweat, her body weakened as the heat of his gaze coursed through her; not the lustful gazes of Edward or his men, but a call from beyond the physical which stirred something deep within her–passion, a burning need. He stared at her like a man dying of thirst stares at a winecup, as if only she could quench his thirst.

Lifting a hand to her chest, she found herself trembling and heard a low voice cry out before she recognised it as her own. Edward tightened his grip, asserting his ownership of her.

“Come, my dear, ‘tis time for you to retire.” He led her out of the courtyard, not speaking until he reached her chamber–an office in the garrison in which a small cot had been placed with her belongings.

Withdrawing her hand, she moved towards the cot. The door slammed behind her, and she flinched at the hands which touched her shoulders. How would she survive her wedding night?

“Does my lady have a weak stomach?” The smooth, cultured voice held a note of warning, but anger conquered her self-control.

“No, she does not,” she retorted, “neither does she have a weak enough mind to take pleasure in such treatment of an unarmed man.”

Edward scoffed. “These men who defy the king are traitors. Longshanks requires loyal subjects to rout them out. These Highlanders are naught but animals and must be treated as such.”

Longshanks. Edward I. Elyssia had yet to meet the king; the man determined to conquer Scotland. Though Papa was a staunch ally and had met him often, Longshanks rarely ventured this close to the border between England and Scotland.

“They’re not animals,” she said, “they’re men and women, with homes, families, and loyalties, just as we are.”

“They are savages, my dear,” Edward said quietly. Ignoring the danger in his voice, she shook her head.

“I saw only one savage in the courtyard.”

He pulled her towards him, his fingers digging into her arms. “It seems my lady is in need of some instruction. Your father warned me of your childish sensibilities towards these Highlanders.”

He thrust his face close and forced his mouth against hers, his thick tongue probing, fighting to gain entrance.

“No!” She pulled her head away.

“Nobody denies me,” he hissed, his expression contorting with anger. A slight movement to her left was her only warning, and she flinched, but too slow–a sharp crack and pain exploded in her face where he struck her, and she fell onto the bed.

Before she could move, his weight bore down on her. Hands tore at her skirts, a shock of cold on her legs, and she squirmed away from him.

“Stay still, woman!” he roared and forced her thighs apart.

“Edward, have mercy!” she cried. “We’re not wed yet. Papa would have you disembowelled for dishonouring the name of de Montford.”

Letting her go, he stood back, his eyes bright with lust, the sour stench of wine on his breath. A slow smile slithered across his face. She lay still, paralysed with fear, legs still akimbo where he had parted them, her face throbbing with pain.

“Very well,” he said quietly. “I can wait, for the sake of honour, but rest assured, I’ll have you. When you are mine, you’ll pay for your defiance.”

After the door slammed behind him, female shrieks echoed in the passageway outside. Edward had found one of the whores servicing the men at the garrison. With luck, he would take a mistress after they married and leave Elyssia alone; the thought of his hands on her made her flesh itch.

Undressing and slipping under the blanket, she closed her eyes, but sleep eluded her. Pained green eyes penetrated her dreams. Who was the man in the courtyard? How might it feel to have his hands on her? Her mind’s eye conjured images of strong muscles straining against the chain, beads of sweat running along the bronzed skin of the Highlander who in one brief instant had touched her heart more deeply than she had ever experienced.

But she belonged to Edward. In a matter of days, he would be able to do what he wished with her.

• • •

Emily is a mathematics geek who grew up in Sussex, UK and has always had a passion for romance and strong alpha heroes. After graduating from Oxford and enjoying a brief dream of becoming an airline pilot, she started a career in financial services in order to indulge her love of mathematics.
She now lives in rural Scotland with her husband, two daughters, and a menagerie of pets including Twinkle, an attention-seeking boa constrictor. She reignited her passion for romance when she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association under their New Writers’ Scheme.

When not working on algebra or writing, Emily enjoys cooking, painting, target sports, and playing the piano. She can often be found wandering about the hills of Scotland looking for inspiration.

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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Available Now: Age of Saints by Christy Nicholas

Druid's Brooch series, #7
Christy Nicholas



99c/p through 10 March
FREE on Kindle Unlimited
On his deathbed, Conall’s father makes him promise to always take care of his little sister, Lainn. With her laughter, she can sing the bees from their hives and make the morning sun sparkle in the winter. He loves Lainn with all his heart, and will do anything to protect her, even without a promise to his father.

He failed.

Between an abusive step-father, a powerful Faerie Queen, and a maddened Fae Lord, every decision Conall makes seems to be the wrong one. Starvation, imprisonment, madness, and disfigurement plagues them. Even when he tries following his heart, it turns to disaster.

Can Conall correct his mistakes and save Lainn’s life and soul?

Will it cost him his own?

• • •

The freshly-sharpened chisel and small hammer offered no tricks or shortcuts, so he spent the next hour carving the stone and refining the edge to fit into the wall. His sweat had become coated with stone dust, making his skin gritty and itchy.

Once he’d dressed the stone, he brushed the stone dust away and surveyed his success. Then, after a quick glance around, he lightly lifted it into place with his magic, taking a moment to wipe down his face and hands. With a long-suffering sigh, he sat at the fourth stone.

Before he finished the last stone, the sun had dipped considerably lower in the sky, behind the dappled canopy of autumn trees. He ran his fingers along the fine cracks as Sétna had, marveling at the fine work he’d finally achieved. For two years, he’d practiced under his stepfather’s exacting tutelage. While Sétna remained a tough taskmaster, he taught well. Conall brushed away another coating of dust and smiled, proud of his work.

With a quick glance at the lowering sun, he gathered his mason tools and wrapped them in the leather-strapped bag. He’d better hurry if he wanted to meet Lainn at the crossroads.

The half-hour walk along the edge of the bog offered him little challenge, as he’d been exploring this area for many years. They hadn’t been born here but had moved when his father found the great fishing in An Bhóinn, the river which ran past the ancient bogland. Conall didn’t remember why they’d left his previous home, as he’d been too young to know much beyond their move. His sister, Lainn, had only been a baby.

While she’d been a merry, laughing child, his little sister grew more annoying with each year. He had been heartily grateful when the druids had accorded her the signal honor of studying with them. Every day, she spent time in their oak grove, learning histories, songs, and chants. She’d used this new knowledge to torment him often, though he wouldn’t let on how interesting he found the tales. If she realized he actually enjoyed them, she’d instantly stop.

He spied her dark auburn curls bouncing as she jumped, trying to reach a yellow apple which hung from a low branch. He chuckled at her predicament and reached above her, calmly plucking the prize and taking a big bite. The last two years of growth meant he towered a full foot over his younger sister. He’d seen seventeen winters, but she’d only had sixteen.

“That’s my apple, Conall! You’ve no right!”

He shrugged. “T-t-taller people get the better apples, Mouse. Height is right!”

“You know I hate that name! Give it!”

When she kicked at his shin, he skipped back, holding the apple above his head and out of her reach. “You can’t catch me!”

She growled and charged him as he laughed and ran. He spied another apple and picked it as he skipped by so she’d have a treat when she tired of chasing him.

Lainn came close to grabbing his Maelblatha, so he put on a burst of speed. It would do no good to let her win. He wove through the trees, zig-zagging until even he panted for breath. When he finally stopped near a small stream, she limped up, her freckled face red and sweating.

Conall offered the second apple as a peace offering with a wide grin. His sister growled at him before snatching it from his hand. They crunched the sweet fruit in silence as the trickling brook sang in the evening air. Bees buzzed around them, making Conall swat one away from his face.

“Don’t hurt him!”

He blinked at his sister. “Him? Blood and bones, Lainn. It’s a bee, not a p-p-person.”

“You should be kind to bees. Adhna says so.”

“Adhna’s madder than a drunken hare, Lainn.”

She shrugged and took a final bite of her apple. “That doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Are you done yet?”

He tossed his core into the stream. “Sure. Ready to go home?”

She gave him a sly smile. “Not yet. I made a promise. Follow me!”

As she ran off to the north—the opposite direction from their home—he rolled his eyes and ran after her. He’d worked hard all day and had little energy or patience for his sister’s antics. He realized her education with the druids must be less physically demanding than his own training as a mason, and she still had the endless energy of youth. With a groan and a protest from his aching leg muscles, he felt every one of his seventeen winters as she led him on a merry chase through the glades.

• • •

Christy Nicholas, also known as Green Dragon, has her hands in many crafts, including digital art, beaded jewelry, writing, and photography. In real life, she's a CPA, but having grown up with art all around her (her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother are/were all artists), it sort of infected her, as it were. She loves to draw and to create things. She says it's more of an obsession than a hobby. She likes looking up into the sky and seeing a beautiful sunset, or seeing a fragrant blossom or a dramatic seaside. She takes a picture or creates a piece of jewelry as her way of sharing this serenity, this joy, this beauty with others. Sometimes this sharing requires explanation – and thus she writes. Combine this love of beauty with a bit of financial sense and you get an art business. She does local art and craft shows, as well as sending her art to various science fiction conventions throughout the country and abroad.

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