“Of Blood and Tears”
“Her dreams strewed behind her.
But they did not glisten like pearls from a turbulent ocean, tumbling iridescent and thunderstorm-dark around her.
Her dreams floated.
Like her—for he leapt after her. His billowing cape snapped into massive black wings that spanned the tempestuous heavens above her.
Then she was floating, in his arms. Velvet feathers grazing her skin.”
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Cousin Ebermeisters can’t be trusted. Neither can five-headed trolls (sly things; always keeping secrets). Neither can princes.
Especially not princes.
In fact, for ex-princess Nikaela, all men are undeniably, unquestionably, indisputably, absolutely, without a doubt and with no exceptions bad news.
That’s why she and her ex-princess friend Saige have a nice little swindle going where they fleece unsuspecting noblemen of their pocket change at royal balls. It’s not exactly a lucrative line of business, but it pays the bills.
At least it pays the bills until Saige (not the sharpest eel in the barrel) chooses the wrong man to cross, and she and Nikaela wind up cursed…
As if that wasn’t bad enough, an unwanted suitor with a head full of chivalrous nonsense and a mind to win Nikaela’s heart chooses that inopportune moment to step back into her life.
And as if THAT wasn’t bad enough, a dragon and a would-be hero sweep into Saige’s life.
And as if that STILL wasn’t bad enough, the untrustworthy men in their lives are about to turn each girl’s well-ordered opinion of the world on its head.
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Longer short stories:
She would never forget the first moment she’d seen him standing on the threshold. Straight dark hair, intent gray eyes set in a narrow, hawkish face. Lean and powerful, a thrumming energy to him as if he restrained a seething force within that he barely kept leashed. His every look penetrated the soul, bared every secret; his every touch brought with it a whisper of doom; his every movement slid through reality, elegant, graceful, and deadly. He spoke little, moved sparingly; he was still until action was necessary, quiet until words were essential.
This was the assassin who killed hundreds at the king’s behest.
The man she was to live with, spend every spare moment with.
The man who would train her to do the impossible.
She hears him… following her.
She runs again, stumbling and falling with a thud on the gravel and dirt-strewn path. She bites her lip so hard to keep an expletive from rising to her lips that she cringes. Pebbles jab into her palms and expose shins where the gown has ridden up.
Two rows over, she hears him whip around; she knows he is peering keenly into the darkness, head cocked to the side. He’s listening, pinpointing her position.
She holds her breath.
“There’s nowhere to go, my love. No one to turn to. Come back to the party. Come back to me.”
His voice – that beloved voice! that treacherous voice! – drifts through the hedge.
Scrambling, she climbs to her feet with difficulty in the smothering silence of the night and tries to merge with the elongated shadows cast by the hedges…