Please welcome back Veronica Scott, a former regular here at Paranormal Romantics.
It’s so much fun to be back on Paranormal Romantics as a guest! Thanks for inviting me! I'm always happy to talk about my new paranormal romance The Captive Shifter, out now, and to share my beautiful cover from Fiona Jayde, as well as the blurb and a new excerpt with your readers!
Concealing her own considerable magical powers, Caitlyn enters the service of the northern Witch Queen masquerading as a simple healer. Under order from her goddess, she’s searching for a magical gem stolen long ago from her own people, believed to be hidden in the massive castle. The task is daunting but Caitlyn is sure she can locate the gem and escape, bringing the prize back to the temple where it belongs. Until she meets the captive shifter and her loyalties become dangerously divided.
In payment for her past services to his people, Kyler the leopard shifter has entered into a life of servitude far from his forest home, allowing the Witch Queen to tap his magic to power her ever darker spells. Factions at Court are threatening to turn the Queen to the Shadow. Her increasing demands for magic will cut short his nearly immortal lifespan. Kyler’s resigned to his fate until the day he crosses paths with the new arrival, whose secrets and magic entice and attract both man and leopard. Has he met his mate at last?
The Queen will never willingly release him from captivity. Caitlyn’s goddess refuses to grant her any delay in accomplishing her own task. Can they locate the magical gem, fight the Shadow and win free of the Witch Queen to earn the right to be together?
Walking to a gold-and-white painted desk with spindly legs and an outsize mirror, Princess Ylain pulled a ring of keys from the middle drawer. “I’m going to show you the still room, but I’m afraid it’s quite a mess.”
“So many keys, are they all for the healing supplies?” Caitlyn took in a deep breath, hoping to sound a bit simple and overawed. And if you tell me which ones open what rooms, my task will be all the simpler. Steal your keys, find what I’m searching for and be gone.
Shaking the key ring for a moment as she might a tambourine, Ylain only laughed. “Of course not. I don’t even know what half of these are for any more, no one does. The castle has dozens of corridors and hundreds of rooms no one uses any more. My family’s ancestors loved to build new spaces and let the old areas fall into disuse. I’ll give you a duplicate key for the still room, never fear.”
As Caitlyn allowed the princess to precede her into the drafty corridor, she asked a question to satisfy her genuine curiosity. “I’m grateful to be added to your staff, my lady, but what need have people here got for herbs and remedies? I thought the witches of Azrimar could heal with their powers. Or so it’s said in the south.”
Ylain glanced over her shoulder, frowning a little. “We can, yes, but Margred’s opinion is magic must be reserved for more lofty purposes. I can’t remember the last time we—any of us— did a major healing chant for the city.”
Caitlyn decided not to pursue the topic, but concentrated on memorizing the labyrinthine corridors leading to the stillroom. The minute the door swung open to Ylain’s key, Caitlyn’s mouth fell open and she gasped. “What a mess!”
The room was a disaster. All the surfaces and pieces of distillation equipment were dusty from disuse. Many of the shelves behind the elaborately incised glass doors were empty. Caitlyn followed Ylain into the center of the room, stooping to retrieve a cracked mixing bowl from the floor and setting it on the scarred work table. She opened a bottle standing forlornly and needed only a sniff to tell the potion was well past potency. Walking along the cupboards, she observed the flagons contained useless hard, dry flakes where silken, fragrant lotions and nostrums should have been. A squeaking mouse scuttled away, disappearing into a hole in the wall. Wordlessly, she spread her hands and appealed to Ylain for explanation of the disorder.
“My last assistant left nearly six months ago,” the princess said, blushing in apparent embarrassment as she walked from cabinet to cabinet. “She was in charge of this. I knew her mind wasn’t on her work but I didn’t realize things had gotten so neglected before she departed.”
“Where do you grow the herbs and spices, your highness?”
Ylain raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Grow them? We don’t grub in the dirt ourselves, we never have. We buy some from caravan traders. Did you see the Abbey compound outside the City gates? Off to the east?”
Dimly Caitlyn recalled seeing a collection of buildings in that direction as the caravan toiled to the city gates.
“Well, the sisters grow many things in the Abbey gardens and they also send us supplies when we request,” Ylain said. “The sisters actually run the clinic in the City. I’m in charge as a member of the royal family but Senior Sister runs things day to day.”
“So we don’t grow anything ourselves here in the Palace? And the witches don’t do healing chants or spells.” Caitlyn paused, shaking her head. “Do we perform any actual Healing, your highness?”
Ylain took no offense. “Yes, actually we do. I do at any rate. I’m in charge of all the healing required within the palace. Margred doesn’t object to my personal choice about using my own magic. I use my crystal primarily.” She held out the glittering, goose egg sized stone on its golden chain. “I’m learned in the use of herbs and potions, however. Crystal magic isn’t the first choice for some ailments and problems, you know.”
Healing was too serious and sacred to be handled in such a slapdash manner. Caitlyn rested her hands on the table and regarded Ylain as she might confront an equal at home in Ordlathus. “Forgive me but I need to be blunt. If I’m going to be involved, I must have free rein to run the stillroom. I must have a garden here at the palace where I can grow my own herbs. I’ll need a budget to buy the remedies we can’t grow. I’ll need to meet with the Abbey staff to discuss what they raise as crops and how they blend their remedies.”
Ylain nibbled at her lower lip, fingers toying with the keys. “In short, you wish to be in charge.”
The princess didn’t sound upset so Caitlyn pressed a bit more. “Yes, your highness, when it comes to the herbs, remedies and potions. I can’t bring myself to do less than a thorough job on something as important as healcraft. There’s nothing worse than being confronted with an illness or ailment calling for a simple cure, yet the cure is unavailable through some oversight. I may not have your abilities with the crystals of Azrimar, but I’m well taught in everyday remedies. Obviously such an exalted person as yourself doesn’t have time to do all the mundane tasks associated with keeping a proper dispensary.” Caitlyn ended on a conciliatory note as she realized how agitated she’d gotten. Bit late to be tactful.
“You’ve made your case quite eloquently. I declare you mistress of the stillroom and all matters pertaining thereto.” As if granting a title of ennoblement, Ylain made a sweeping gesture with the largest key. “In my name. Oh, Bradana was right; you will be trouble, won’t you?”
Author Bio and Links:
Best Selling Science Fiction, Fantasy & Paranormal Romance author and “SciFi Encounters” columnist for the USA Today Happy Ever After blog, Veronica Scott grew up in a house with a library as its heart. Dad loved science fiction, Mom loved ancient history and Veronica thought there needed to be more romance in everything. When she ran out of books to read, she started writing her own stories.Seven time winner of the SFR Galaxy Award, as well as a National Excellence in Romance Fiction Award, Veronica is also the proud recipient of a NASA Exceptional Service Medal relating to her former day job, not her romances! She recently was honored to read the part of Star Trek Crew Member in the audiobook production of Harlan Ellison’s “The City On the Edge of Forever.”