Monday, October 1, 2012
Blood Royal excerpt by Rowan Malloy
An unwilling princess caught between feuding clans
A ruthless queen's deadly web
Forbidden love in a world built on magic and murder
Struggling artist Eva Milaras resents getting stuffed into a magic limo by a wizard who calls her names like “Serenissima” and “Highness,” even if he is heart-stopping handsome. Never mind he’d just saved her life in the bomb blast at Budget Foods. Even though Talak claimed she would be safer in his world of magic, it looked like staying alive was going to be a challenge.
Prisoner of an aristocratic destiny she didn’t know about and doesn't want, Eva must survive the deadly ambitions of her new-found relatives—as well as all their enemies—as they maneuver to gain power in a murderous royal court.
Talak knows the rules—Eva must marry a man from the royal bloodline regardless of his love for her. Together they battle intrigue and betrayal, but finally must choose between letting go of each other…or certain death for treason. That’s a choice Eva refuses to make…
Wayfarer Press (September 16, 2012)
Instead of the large, perfect fruit shown in the flyer, the Granny Smiths at Budget Foods were small and beaten up—another disappointing win for reality over promise. Eva Milaras gazed at the poor things as she tore off the coupon and stuffed the rest of the pages back into her bag. I guess we’re all bruised in one way or another, she thought.
Still, she was sure she could find half a dozen decent ones in the stack. She’d get some yams and put them together in a casserole—a tasty and inexpensive declaration that she was now back in charge of her life in spite of being broke.
She’d tough this out with what little cash she had in her purse until the gallery could figure out what the mysterious delay in her payment was. They owed her for two large paintings, and that money would be more than enough to get her back on her feet again. It was just a matter of time. She yanked a plastic bag from the dispenser and began picking through the apples.
She flashed on her little studio. It had great light, decent ventilation, and was within walking distance of most everything she needed. So what if she had to maneuver around her bed to get to the tiny kitchen? With Derek gone, it was all the room she needed for her easel and canvases. She’d love to keep it if she could, but the rent was due in two weeks and…well, she’d go to the gallery this afternoon, see what Leslie had to say.
She found two more unbruised apples, and took them as a sign of better times coming. She really would take charge of her life—simplify, concentrate on her work, and avoid complications like an unemployed boyfriend.
“Pardon, Serenissima,” a strong, warm voice from behind pulled her from her reverie.
She turned to see a man, early thirties probably, tall and well-built, dressed completely in black. Who wears such an expensive silk shirt and slacks to Budget Foods on a Saturday morning? They had to be club clothes, but he didn’t look like he’d been out partying all night. And what a great face to paint! A delicious olive tone to his skin, deep eyes, strong angular face-planes, so… compelling, framed by black hair that fell unbound, thick and dangerously sexy, past his shoulders. Great shoulders. Lean waist. Yes, he’d make a terrific model. She found herself smiling at him, realizing too late that it probably wasn’t a good idea. He was already standing uncomfortably close.
“Are you talking to me?” She backed away and tilted her head at the apples. “I’m afraid I’ve picked through these already. Good luck finding more decent ones.”
“Forgive my abruptness,” the man said, reaching toward her, “but you must leave this place with me immediately. You are in gravest danger. Please—we must leave this instant to avoid disaster.”
Suspicion chilled the spark of interest she’d felt. “Look, I came here just for apples.” She slid one hand into her purse, locating her pepper spray. “Leave me alone, please, or I’ll call store security.”
She hoped this guy didn’t know that Howard—the entire security staff of Budget Foods currently on duty—was in his seventies and would never be able to stand up to someone like this man, who carried himself with the smooth precision of a dancer or a martial artist. At least Howard had a radio.
The man dipped his head and upper body in an odd, twisting bow. “My Lady,” he said, his voice tight and urgent. “Please, I beg you. Your life is in very real danger. You must trust me in this. I will explain later, but first we must flee.”
Flee? Eva looked around at the worn ordinariness of Budget Foods, with shoppers inching their carts along the aisles. There was nothing here to flee from but boredom.
Her finger found the directional notch on the tiny canister in her bag. “Look, I don’t know you, what you’re on, or what your deal is, but you’re scaring me.” She pulled out the spray and held it up. “This is nasty stuff and I’ll use it on you if you don’t back off—right now.” She backed away from him again and bumped into the stacked apples. Several of them tumbled to the floor—even more bruises, she thought, as if they didn’t have enough already. She held her eyes on the stranger, wincing as the apples thumped and rolled on the scarred wooden floor.
In a single fluid motion the man flicked the can out of her hands and wrapped his arms around her, pushing her to the floor, covering her with his body. Before she could scream for help an explosion ripped the storefront window open, and she heard the screams of others.
In a strange, time-suspended clarity on the way to the floor Eva could feel the muscles of his torso flex and twist, pushing hot against her in a symphony of coordinated power. How the heck did he know this was going to happen? She hit the floor and her breath whooshed out in a grunt.
She looked up into his face. His eyes stared into hers, fierce as a looming storm. Blue gray, she thought. No, slate. He was heavier than he looked and she needed to breathe. But he had great eyes.
“Get off me!” She pushed against him, and he rolled away without protest.
She sat up. Her ears hurt. The store—or what was left of it—was a mess. She could see two, no, three shoppers on the floor, not moving. In fact, nothing moved, and the stillness was horrible.
A soft groan floated through the smoke from somewhere. Still in its pink sweatshirt sleeve, an arm without an owner lay on the floor. And blood. Lots of it. This was so wrong. Oh, my god. She swallowed several times against a wave of nausea. What on earth had happened?
Then there was movement. All around her, shards of glass began to twitch and shift, becoming dark red scorpions scuttling toward them—dozens of them, different sizes, all the same. Glass shouldn’t do that, she was sure of it.
“Do not move, Serenissima,” the stranger commanded, his voice icy. He turned his back to her, putting himself between her and the scorpions. She stared at his back. He’d been hit by several pieces of glass; two of them stuck partway out of his flesh. All of those would have hit her if he hadn’t thrown himself over her. What the hell is going on?
His hands glowed, and pale fire flowed from his fingers in dancing streams—first carving a circle around them, then striking out at each scorpion. As his fire hit each one it sparked into smoke and dropped, again becoming an inert piece of glass.
What did he just do? Eva looked around, trying to locate her pepper spray, but couldn’t see where it had rolled. She needed to get out of here. But her body was too heavy, too far away to respond.
“I don’t know how,” the man growled, “but your enemies have discovered who you are, my Lady. Now you will have no peace until you reach your Ceremony or they have destroyed us both, for I swear I will not outlive you.”
He stood, bending down. His hair tumbled forward, as if reaching to touch her. “I apologize, Highness,” he said, “but I have no choice but to carry you to safety. With or without your permission.”
Why is he calling me these strange names? As he reached for her, Eva saw another shard of glass sticking out of his arm. Blood had drenched his shirt down to the cuff. His hand was dripping red, but he seemed oblivious of it. Still dazed, she felt him reach under her shoulders and knees and pick her up as if she weighed nothing.
“Stop!” she screamed. “Put me down! Help!” She twisted against his iron-hard grip and grabbed a coconut from an end display as they passed. Eva pounded it against his chest and face but he didn’t even look at her as he strode through the carnage to the rear of the store, kicked open the warehouse doors, and jumped off the loading dock to the ground. On the other side of the alley sat a sleek limousine with darkened windows. As they approached, a passenger door swung open. The man deposited her inside, wrested the coconut from her, and tossed it away. He climbed in opposite her and pulled the door shut, wincing at the reach. The limo began to roll.
Panic tackled her—she was trapped in a stranger’s car. “You can’t do this!” This was not good.
She forced herself to deepen her breathing, get grounded in her body again. She needed to get out of this car, and looked around for anything she could use as a weapon. There was nothing but smooth luxury.
Eva rubbed her arms as she scanned the compartment, grateful for the comfort of her own touch. Her hands were ice-cold against her skin, but still reassuring. Maybe he left the door unlocked!
She lunged for the door and pushed it open, prepared to leap. But Roanoke was hundreds of feet below them. Inexplicably, they were airborne. The river was a sparkling blue ribbon wandering past the rail yards. This is really wrong.
The man scowled at her and gestured at the door. It swung shut against all the resistance she could muster.
“You can’t fly in this thing, there’ll be radar—” Eva realized she had no idea of what she was talking about. “Or something. Homeland Security… You’ll be tracked down.” Maybe she could bargain with him. “Take me back now and I promise not to file a complaint.”
The man grunted, his face a pain-filled grimace as he unbuttoned his bloody shirt. “No one saw us on the ground, or since, my Lady. We are enshrouded in magic that makes us invisible to others.”
What the hell does that mean, enshrouded in magic? This wasn’t supposed to happen when someone walked two blocks over to Budget Foods to buy apples. But it had. She wanted this to be a dream but knew it wasn’t. She’d left butter on the counter at home. In this heat it would be a puddle by the time she got back. If she got back.
The man smiled at her—or maybe it was a wince—as he used his uninjured arm to peel his sodden shirt from his back. He obviously worked out. A lot.
So this is what cognitive dissonance feels like. “You know how serious a crime kidnapping is, don’t you? Besides, I’m broke. I have nothing for you to demand in ransom. I’m not the one you want. You’ve made a mistake.”
The man’s smile was grim as he shook his head, saying nothing as he dropped his bloody shirt on the seat beside him. It made a heavy wet plop against the leather.
“Answer me!” she shouted. “What the hell is going on here, and where are you taking me?”
“I take you to safety, Serenissima,” the man said with an apologetic dip of his head. “I ask for your forgiveness, but a longer explanation, which you most certainly deserve, must wait while I attend to my injuries. They require my most urgent concentration.”
Eva watched as he arched his back and reached behind him. He’s flexible enough to hold a difficult pose, she thought, and then laughed aloud at herself in disbelief. This man had probably saved her life, kidnapped her, shoved her into an invisible flying limousine going god knows where, and now sat half-naked across from her, bleeding all over the cream leather, and all she could think about was how good a model he might be. Still, he really would make a terrific model.
But then there was the whole scorpions-from-glass thing. Maybe she’d been drugged and was hallucinating. Maybe. That would be the best answer possible, but this felt horribly real.
The man let out a sharp grunt. When she could see his hand again it held a red-stained shard of glass, which he tossed into a corner on the limousine floor.
He blew onto the tips of his bloody fingers and murmured words she didn’t understand. His fingertips glowed again, just like in the store. This time the air filled with the scent of lilacs, or maybe honeycomb—yes, honeycomb. He reached behind him again, and there was a sharp hiss.
He took a deep breath, arched, and reached behind him again. He scowled, and this time his hand returned empty.
“Forgive me, my Lady, but would you be willing to draw a piece of glass from my back? I would be most grateful.” He lifted his shirt to his mouth, bit down on the torn sleeve and ripped a small strip from it. He offered it to her. “If you grasp the glass with this, you can get a safer grip.”
“You want me to help you? Oh, right!” She glowered at him. “There’s nothing to stop me from pushing it in the rest of the way, is there?”
“Nothing at all.” The man smiled, affable and grim. “And I might die. But whether I live or die, this car’s course is already set, and it will take you to its destination. Without me to protect you when you arrive, you most certainly would die as soon as your presence was discovered. Quite unpleasantly.”
He dipped his head, as if apologizing. “So, as distasteful as it may be to you, I represent your very best chance of survival.” Again he proffered the scrap of cloth.
She was in a flying car and had no idea where she was or where she was going. So not in control of her life, just when she’d sworn to take charge and never give it up again. Hallucinating or not, survival sounded good to Eva.
“Damn.” She took the scrap from him. It was the thickest, richest silk she had ever felt. “I have to tell you I don’t do well with blood.”
To purchase from Amazon, click http://www.amazon.com/Blood-Royal-ebook/dp/B009BRZGSO/
To purchase from Barnes & Noble, click http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-royal-rowan-malloy/1112919193?ean=2940015689860
To purchase from Smashwords, click https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/236566/