New Release Coming! On February 15th, my latest fantasy romance in the Kingdoms of Lore world, Stolen by the Shadow King, will arrive!
This will be the first book in a duology. I have long been obsessed with Hades and Persephone (I went so far as to use the simplified play as a teaching tool when I taught fourth and fifth grades) and I had so much fun writing my version of their story if they had been characters in this world.
Remember, the Dragons Rising series tells the first stories in this world, then Kingdoms of Lore takes over (and I’ll have another standalone release in that world this summer), then there will be this new duology!
Okay, enough blabbering, it’s time for a raw excerpt from the upcoming enemies to lovers fantasy romance about an Underworld king and a realist witch. 🙂
This was a terrible idea. Maren was doing it anyway.
She gripped her oaken wand—the deep grain familiar against her skin—and stared into the Between’s billowing fog. A cool breeze touched her cheeks and forehead, and she gasped at the biting chill. All scents disappeared. The misty clouds shifted with the shapes of spirits. The spirits looked just as they had in life though now they were colorless and their bodies emitted a pale, blue-white glow. They talked quietly to one another and walked in clusters, some disappearing at the borders of the Between as new ones grew visible. This place existed between the underworld and the land of the living.
Maren cleared her throat. “I call the Shadow King.”
Every spirit rotated to face her and a chill scrambled down her back. She couldn’t see them clearly, but she imagined their looks of shock from the way they whispered in quick bursts.
Maren nodded. “I know. I’m a bit mad. But I’m sincere. I call the Shadow King.” She clicked her tongue and searched the churning mists of white and gray. “Any time now…”
Her bones shivered inside her clammy skin and she sighed. She moved her wand across the space in front of her. “Return.”
With a jarring slam, her spirit returned to her body in the land of the living. She blinked and looked up into the branches of the Sacred Oak. Clothed in autumn’s gold and brown, the Sacred Oak’s power hummed through the air and the ground under Maren’s boots. Aside from the hum, a woodpigeon’s coo and the shuffle of the turning leaves overhead were the only sounds in the Forest of Illumahrah. Maren walked to the Oak and set her hand on the trunk. Her wand shivered in her hand, knowing its Mother. All wands came from the Sacred Oak, given magically to witches in this kingdom, and sometimes, beyond. The Source, the High Power, had set this tree into the world to serve as a conduit for all magic.
Maren breathed deeply, enjoying the flow of magic simmering through her human witch blood. Then, she returned to the dusky-hued pony she’d borrowed from the fae court. With a flick of her wand and a sharply focused imagining of a ripe apple, Maren magicked a treat for the creature. Her palms and the spot between her eyes warmed with the flow of power. Once the pony had gobbled it down with its soft lips, Maren sheathed her wand at her belt, mounted up, and began the short ride back to her found family.
At the Agate Court stables, two fae lads not much younger than Maren—who was just eighteen—were mucking stalls, their horns and pointed ears showing through their tied-back hair. Maren tried not to stare. She was still getting used to seeing non-human beings. She’d always known they were around, but none lived in her home kingdom of Wylfenden. Here in the kingdom of Lore, humans with no power, human witches like her, elves, and fae all lived in relative harmony. A smile pulled at her lips. It was fascinating, and it was downright impressive that even with all their cultural differences they didn’t explode into violence.
The pony’s shoes clomped over the cobblestones as Maren led her under the archway’s green-painted runes of safety and healing. The cobblestones had been set into patterns that showed the elemental magics—air, water, fire, and earth. Even the fae’s stables were fancy. Maren took a wide brush from the rack on the wall and began brushing the pony down, a pleasant chore. Her magic couldn’t manage such tangled spells as tidying a horse, but she didn’t mind the work. The stable hands glanced her way and whispered something in the fae tongue. She couldn’t speak their language, but their narrowed eyes told her enough. No one really liked to be around the Deadspeaker.
“Thanks for not taking off while I was working today, Pony.” She couldn’t remember the animal’s name, but the pony didn’t seem to care. “I know it had to be incredibly off-putting to see a lifeless body just standing there.” When she visited the Between, her body was nearly dead with just enough spirit left in it to keep her alive and able to return.
The pony snorted, and Maren set to combing a cluster of dark burrs from her mane.
“Your Highness!” One of the stable lads had stopped his mucking and bowed at the waist. He straightened, eyes shining with awe.
Princess Brielle of Wylfenden and Balaur, Maren’s best friend, walked in, her red hair lifting in the morning breeze. “How is the new foal doing? I didn’t realize I’d be here long enough to see him born.”
“Meetings upon meetings still, eh?” Maren peeked her head around the corner of the cleaning stall.
“Maren!” Brielle hefted her skirts and ran over. She enveloped Maren in a vicious hug.
Brielle had rescued Maren from the Wylfenden king’s dungeon—from Brielle’s own father—and Maren had befriended the amazing woman right away, loving the way she wasn’t like any other princess. Brielle may have been wearing a fine gown of emerald, decorated in fox fur, as befit the soon to be queen of Balaur, but Maren knew well Brielle wished to be in trousers and digging up ancient artifacts high in the mountains.
“Why are you brushing out your pony?” Brielle’s face turned stormy and she whirled on the bug-eyed stable hands. “Do you dare to insult my dearest friend, the Deadspeaker? Show some respect and take care of her mount immediately.”
“Apologies, Your Highness,” the lads mumbled as they took over for Maren.
Maren followed Brielle out of the stables and toward the side entrance to the Agate Palace, home to the fae court.
“So many discussions,” Brielle said. “If I hear one more old man say the word negotiation, I might die.”
Maren wasn’t envious of the meetings that Brielle had to endure, but sometimes she secretly wished she could pipe up with an idea or two. Right now, though she just wanted to get back inside without Brielle asking what she’d been up to.
“Why were you riding alone? I would have come with you had you waited an hour.”
Blowing out a breath, Maren decided not to lie exactly, but to keep some of the truth back until she had more answers. “I needed some quiet time to myself with the Sacred Oak.”
Brielle nodded. “It’s amazing to be so close to center of the worlds.”
The Sacred Oak held everything in place with threads of magic that reached through the earth and sky and sea. It was the keystone of existence.
“I’ll miss it when we go back to Balaur.” Maren lived in the mountain elf kingdom of Balaur with Brielle who had married the High Prince there.
Maren popped her knuckles, her head aching. If yesterday’s vision was right, was there any point to returning to Balaur?
I hope you’ll grab your copy of Stolen by the Shadow King and enjoy reading this book as much as I loved writing it! (P.S. Along with Hades and Persephone, Pride and Prejudice also inspired some of King Kynan’s and Lady Maren’s personalities. They like to bicker and banter as those two do, and of course, Mr. Darcy is one of my all time favorite book boyfriends.)
Thanks for reading,