Wednesday, March 20, 2013

PREVIEW Moonlight: The Big Bad Wolf, Black Swan Book 4

 As you probably know, I write in serial saga format. Each book in my paranormal romance series begins where the last ended. For that reason, I have encouraged reading in order by making the first book in the series (NOMINATED FOR BEST PARANORMAL ROMANCE OF 2012 BY REVIEWERS' CHOICE AWARD) permafree and available at Amazon, Apple, B&N, Smashwords, and Kobo.


Coming on the full moon, May 25th.

1. Sol taps Storm to replace him as Jefferson Unit Sovreign.
2. B Team learns the shocking truth about the origin of the vampire virus.
3. Monq races to develop a defense system to repel interdimensional terrorists/assassins.
4. Litha volunteers her father to help to Black Swan.
5. Desperation drives Stalkson Grey to embark on an adventure beyond his wildest dreams in a bid to save the Loti werewolves from extinction. In the process he learns that true love can find you in the strangest places, even when you're far, far from home.


(The first excerpt from Chapter 1 in included at the end of A Summoner's Tale.)
Prince Duff Torquil's family was having a small reception to celebrate his mid winter graduation from law school from The University of Strathclyde at Glasgow. There was a tradition among the fae monarchy that those who were likely to rule study history, with an emphasis on Fae history, and go on to law school, logic being that the law is best administered by those who know and understand it. The royal family, currently in residence at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, considered a small reception to number eight hundred people. At that, there were sure to be at least two thousand more who would consider their lack of invitation a snub.

Elora had written to the prince and explained that she and her husband had taken temporary quarters in the States. She added that she hoped it would not be presumptuous of her to ask that her friend, Istvan Baka and his bride, both employed by the same organization, take their place. Of course she knew it was presumptuous. After all, she had a background in the gentility of social arts, but she hoped he would grasp the code of her next sentence which was this.

"You are certain to enjoy Baka's company and that of his new bride who is popular among the young associates where she works. I'm certain you would make a loyal ally for life should you offer an extra invitation for her to bring a friend."

On the off chance that people were smarter than they appear to be, Duff reread the note twice before tossing it on the glowing embers of the fireplace in his north wing office. He stabbed at the coals with the poker until the paper caught and burned to ash within seconds while he made a mental note to find a way to repay the Lady Laiken for her smart and capable assistance. He opened the door and stepped out to speak to his secretary. No matter how many times it occurred, the young man always appeared startled when the prince leaned out and spoke to him. It seemed the palace staff would never get used to Duff's inappropriately modern and boorish behavior.

At first it had annoyed Duff that Grieve jumped in his chair whenever Duff opened the door to the outer offices and spoke to him. Grieve had been appointed by his father without Duff having any say in the matter. Whatsoever. As usual. But eventually he came to terms with the fact that there was an odd, little bespectacled man sitting just outside the entrance to his suite of rooms. He managed this internal resolution largely by appreciating the humor of the thing.  Grieve's display of shock had become part of the reality Duffy's day to day and one that he'd grown to look forward to. In fact, he imagined that, should Grieve develop nerves of steel, he, Duff Torquil, Prince of Scotia Fae and heir to the throne, would be forced to devise ways to deliberately create surprise, simply for the pleasure of seeing Grieve jump, gasp, and clutch his chest.

With that thought, Duff lowered his chin into his chest and chuckled while Grieve got himself together.

"Grieve," Duff repeated.

"Aye, your highness."

"Please send an additional invitation to my reception to an Istvan Baka at the Black Swan Charitable Corporation offices, Charlotte Square."

"But, sir, there are no odd invitations left to offer."

"Are you goin'?"

Grieve pushed his glasses higher on his nose. "Oh, aye. My presence is expected."
"Do you want to go?"

Grieve hesitated, mouth open, while trying to decide whether it would be in his interest to tell the truth or not. "I, ah..."

"The truth, man."

"No' particularly."

"There you have it then. Problem solved." Duff was ducking his head back into his rooms.

"But, sir, your father..."

The prince slowly opened the door and reappeared, but without his customary affable and approachable expression. He didn't seem happy. And might even have been scowling a little.

"Who do you work for, Grieve?"

"You, sir?"

"I understand that my father hired you, but he is no' in a position to oversee and sign off on every detail of my affairs every day. Do you no' agree?"

Grieve nodded. "Aye."

"Well, then it seems you must make a choice. Is your loyalty to the one who appointed you or to the one whom you serve?"

Grieve paused for only a moment before standing and pulling his shoulders back. "My loyalty is to you, sir. I would be honored to have you rely upon me."

Truly, Duff was half joking and had not expected the equivalent of a chivalric vow of service, but seeing that the little man was serious, the prince was touched and decided not to dismiss it as a jest.

"Thank you, Grieve. I will treasure your declaration and count on it, from this day forward."

Looking like he had just experienced the best moment of his life, Grieve smiled like he'd just been knighted.

Duff withdrew and closed the door, but stowed away in his heart the knowledge that allies could be made from something so small as a little respect and recognition.


Baka would have loved to skip the prince's reception, but Elora had asked him to go and take Aelsong. So he was standing in front of the mirror in a blindingly white pleated shirt trying to tie his black tie. He was just glad his tux came with pants instead of the kilt that most of the male guests would be wearing under their coats.

Heaven came up behind him with a towel wrapped around her. She pressed into his back and looked over his shoulder at his reflection in the mirror.

"Hmmm. Handsome."

Baka gave her his best debonair smile. "Bond. James Bond."

She giggled. "Here." She urged him to turn around so that she could tie the tie. While she was doing that, he dropped her towel to the floor, pulling her closer with one hand while the other found wicked things to do. He loved the way her chest heaved when she sucked in a surprised breath. "You don't really want this tied, do you?"

He laughed softly. "Not as much as I want to touch you. In fact..." Grabbing her waist, he lifted, turned and set her on the edge of the bathroom counter. "...what if we just...?"

The door chime rang. Heaven giggled. "That's Song. Go get the door and entertain her for a few minutes while I finish getting ready."

He sighed, but released her with a look that was as good as a promise about what would take place when they were alone again.

Baka pulled open the door. "Song. You look lovely."

She hoped so. She was going for good-as-it-gets.

"Thank you, Baka. No one would ever guess there's a dirty old vampire underneath those pretty clothes. And I do mean old."

He laughed good-naturedly. "She's almost ready. I think. Something to drink while we wait?" He pointed to a bar that had been cleverly hidden in an antique French secretary.

"No. No' drinkin'. No' breathin' or sittin' down in this dress or it'll crease and look a fright."

"Okay. We'll stand up together." The conversation seemed to lag. "So. What's the mystery behind why the Lady Laiken wanted you to attend this party?"

Aelsong Hawking had the sort of expressive face that revealed every emotion, no matter how small, no matter how fleeting, particularly to someone who had lived as long as Baka. She might not tell him what it was about, but it was clear that something was up.

"Other than the fact that my sister-in-law seems to like seein' me happy, I do no' have a clue."

Baka knew she was lying. Aelsong knew that he knew she was lying, but he arched a brow and let it go and that was the best that could be expected.

The bedroom door opened and Heaven walked into the living room in very high heels and a shortened, tightened version of the blood red dress she got married in. She was stunning. Stunning and delighted that Baka was speechless. His face said he liked this version of that dress even better. Her responding smile was like a starburst.

"Great Paddy, Heaven! You can no' go with me lookin' like that. 'Tis a crime for old married women to go sashayin' about the countryside drawin' all the attention for themselves. You should stay home with your old stodgy husband."

"Song. Those are the nicest things anybody's ever said to me. Thank you."

"Well, it's not the nicest thing anybody's ever said to me! I am the furthest thing from stodgy and you know it."

Her gaze flew wide-eyed to Baka as soon as he said it and Baka wasn't the only person who could read Song easily. Song knew enough about humans to know Heaven wouldn't continue to include her as a friend if she knew that she had shared a night with Baka that was wild even by elf standards.

"What's going on?" Heaven looked directly at Baka. "What do you mean 'and you know it'?"

"Um. I met Song in Ireland when Ram and Elora were getting married." True. "I stayed drunk most of the weekend." Also true. "And I might have kept company with some of the attendees of a feminine persuasion." True again. Also a masterfully executed dodge.

"Oh." Heaven looked uncertain, like the conversation had taken such an unfortunate turn that she didn't know how to backtrack and recover the mood. Fortunately Baka did.

He gathered her in his arms with a devilishly intimate and reassuring grin. "You are absolutely the most ravishing, beguiling woman in this dimension or any other. And I haven't given another woman a thought since the day Director Tvelgar introduced us."

He relaxed a little when she responded with a crooked, little smile. "Introduced us? That's what we're calling it?"

"Works for me."

"Me, too." Song opened the door. "Let's get this party started. The royal family of Scotia awaits."

Baka stepped into the hallway and offered both arms to the lovely ladies as the three dazzled their way toward the elevator.



Christine Merritt said...

The wait for this book is exceedingly excruciating. I miss the characters and especially love Aelsong...

I will go back and re-read the first three books in this adventure to recover.

Thank you for the tease oh, I mean excerpt!

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