Category: Excerpts


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If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, you may like Inviting the Devil

Was it normal for a fashion designer to ask a new model to strip so he could inspect her from head to toe to get a feel for her shape, size and sensitivities?

Bumping into her boss, causing her portfolio to fall and the drawings she’d secretly worked on during her breaks to scatter was accidental. But oh, what a welcome accident. Danea’s career dreams are realized when the man she’s drooled over and fantasized about for two years while working in administration wants to see all her sketches.

Not only does Kalem Ostarizo, the world’s top fashion designer, hire her for his design team, but wants her to model for House of Ostarizo. Danea happily signs a one-year contract for each position but is shocked when she finds out the obedience clause she agreed to involves more than just obeying the rules.

 

EXCERPT:

 

“Meet me in front of the building at noon. I hope you like the bistro around the corner. It’s my favorite. I’ll instruct my assistant to add you to my design group. Your work hours will be very flexible. I don’t mind if you work at home at times.”

“Really?” I stood, assuming he was dismissing me. His next question surprised me.

“Yes. Tell me, have you ever modeled?”

“No.”

“Please walk to the door and back? Take off your jacket, please.”

Nervous, I did as he told me. I put my purse back on the chair, hung my jacket on the back of it and walked to the door then back. I tried desperately to maintain my composure and not wobble on the spiked heels. Keeping my gaze glued to the floor, I felt his dark gaze on me while I strolled as casually as I could back to his desk.

“Undo the buttons of your blouse,” he ordered.

Okay, this is going a bit too far. “Why?”

“Lesson number one—never ever, question an order from me. I’ll answer you this time because you seem nervous. You’re too frigid, too tense, and hold your head up when you walk. Please do as I tell you?”

I tried to stop my fingers from trembling as I undid the buttons. I didn’t have a bra on—didn’t have the need of one. My breasts were firm, perky, and required no support.

“Pull the blouse out of your skirt.”

My breath caught in my throat as I obeyed his orders. My blouse flapped loose, both front panels barely covering my nipples.

“Walk to the door again and walk back to me. Imagine you’re a model and you’re displaying the latest Ostarizo outfit.”

I walked to the doors, did a turnabout and walked back toward him. I tried not to think about my blouse, about the flapping sides. I felt the cool air touch my nipples and knew they were exposed. I kept my eyes glued to the floor as I continued to walk.

“Look at me!” he thundered.

Startled, I raised my head and gazed into his eyes. My knees shook and felt about to liquefy into jelly. M my teeth chattered, but I continued to walk.

“Beautiful. You’ll not only design for me, but you’ll model for me as well.”

He came around from behind his desk, walked toward me and lifted my chin with his long, tapered fingers. “You’re a beautiful woman, Ms. Fitzgerald. Welcome to my team. I’ll give my assistant the necessary instructions and will expect you here tomorrow morning at nine sharp. You’ll start with a crash course in modeling. Leave your portfolio with me. I’d like to study all of your drawings at my leisure.”

His fingers left a burning imprint on my face. Flustered, I buttoned my blouse, hiding my exposed breasts, and tucked it back into the skirt. I realized he must have seen every inch of my breasts and my very hard nipples. The crotch of my panties was soaked, my clit throbbed like crazy, my nether lips felt swollen and tingly hot. A stream of electricity coursed through my body, my heart beat like a drum. I retrieved my jacket from the chair and quickly slipped it on.

“I’ll see you tomorrow morning, Ms. Fitzgerald.”

Kindred

Kindred – Book 12 of the Samsara Chronicles

After Aislinn and Dylan witness Shakan’s confession regarding the abduction of the royals, he is sentenced to banishment in the Overlap.

Shakan’s sentencing to the Overlap for his betrayal of the royals and his collaboration with the Klatrians leads Aislinn and Dylan to finalize their plans to rescue her parents before the Fortieth Tribunal. In the meantime, the Klatrian resistance make their own plans in response to Aislinn and Dylan’s arrival.

Excerpt:

“Very well, Vark,” she said aloud. “My consort and I will deliver the skull. Indicate a rendezvous—upon our arrival you will release my parents and you will take us as hostages instead.”

Vark stared at Aislinn’s implacable expression. Normally he would not tolerate such insubordination from a woman, but Shakan’s betrayal had damaged his plans more than he dared admit. He needed the skull now, if not for the greater good of Klatria, then at the very least to ensure his own survival. His entourage was dwindling even faster than the general population. Despite the bravado he attempted to convey, he knew the demands on the elite to produce the ever-spiraling technology required not only to maintain their tenuous existence but to present an aggressive face to Nirvana, had exhausted them beyond their capabilities. Though the planet’s isolation gave them relative protection from the attention of other hostile races, it had also served to isolate them from any immediate source of assistance.

The thought broke off, confusing him. He shook his head against a brief sense of vertigo. Assistance? Why would he think of that? Conquest was his goal, not assistance. Yet somewhere in the depths of his rapidly fading memory emerged an image from a time when he lived in the light and the thought of such aggression was an alien one. He stared at his gloved hands as though seeing them for the first time. Suddenly he glimpsed a fleeting vision of…of some kind of instrument. But what was that glint of metal? Try as he might he could not put a name to the baffling object. Only the image of his ungloved, unmarred hands was clear, and the faint, taunting sound of music. Music? The concept seemed vaguely familiar, but he could not quite remember what it—

“Vark, is there a problem?”

Aislinn’s head cocked slightly at Janku’s question.

Janku’s sharply inquisitive voice banished Vark’s erratic thoughts. Suddenly aware of the Clan’s intense scrutiny, he uttered an impatient grunt and turned to Samara and Bonerus. Their calm demeanor rankled him, the clarity of their eyes indicating that the post-kansu effects had now completely worn off. Yet there was something else beneath their vaguely condescending gaze, a sense of mockery or veiled amusement. Though sorely tempted to strike them, to mark them in some way, he refrained. Without knowing the complete truth about their powers, he could not take the risk of incurring their anger. Later, once the princess was in his hands, he would find a way to dispose of them all.

“Your behavior from this point will determine the reception your daughter will receive,” he said, his voice lowered to a barely audible croak.” If there is even any hint of treachery, I will leave you in a golak cavern to be devoured and present your bones to her. Do you understand me?”

Entity

Entity – Book 11 of the Samsara Chronicles

Aislinn and Dylan face the Nirvanan traitor Shakan to rescue Aislinn’s sister and discover his link to Vark.

Faced with Shakan’s treachery, Aislinn and Dylan must capture him and rescue Nashira, Aislinn’s sister. Realizing that Shakan is both possessed by the spirit of a corrupt ancestor and is in league with Vark to betray Nirvana, they devise a plan to rescue Aislinn’s parents using alien technology obtained during Shakan’s capture.

EXCERPT:

 

Something moved in her peripheral vision. Waving Dylan back, she sidled toward the doors. Though the sensation of foreboding increased with each step, so did her confidence. Hollow laughter echoed from the depths, the perennial gloom in the house augmented by a heavily tinted windows and chaotic architectural design. Aislinn paused, sensing a strong and sudden presence.

“So you brought me the prize, as I knew you would,” Shakan said.

Aislinn turned and stared balefully at him. “I’ve brought you nothing but the justice you deserve.”

Standing amidst the shadows he laughed, the sound an unpleasant echo that only augmented the demonic cast to his face. His eyes, fixed on the skull, blazed with a peculiar intensity reminiscent of a rabid dog. Aislinn studied her adversary. Dressed in ceremonial garb, the archaic style was one she recalled seeing at the overlap. The glint of gemstones drew her attention to the hilt of the dagger. Shakan’s fingers absently caressed the weapon.

“You reek of blood,” she said.

“Better it should be yours,” he said, his hand a blur as he tossed the dagger at her.

Aislinn felt herself violently pushed out of the way, her feet gliding above the floor. The dagger whistled by harmlessly and embedded itself into the somber wood-paneled wall behind her. Whirling around, she confronted a charging Shakan, but the face did not belong to the man she had seen a moment ago. Contorted into a hate-filled mask, the features ran like melted wax merging those of Shakan and Jhanvar until a diabolical mutation ensued. Around him, a foul miasma formed and undulated toward her. Soupy tendrils oozed and contracted, the phantom images of hands forming into misshapen claws. From it bellowed an unearthly voice sounding more like the cry of an enraged animal. The air around her grew heavy, tainted by the reek of ozone and rotting flesh. Glass shattered from an unseen location. Infernal eyes bore into her, willing her into obeisance.

Shutting her eyes, she focused on a mental point of light that flared like a torch. At that moment, a solar brilliance erupted from the skull and flooded the room. The miasma recoiled with a terrible groan and funneled through the walls. Shakan gasped and shielded his eyes. Unaffected, Aislinn calmly regarded him. An unspeakable darkness whispered from his mind before it vanished behind an impenetrable wall. Though she sensed its taunt, somehow, she could not pursue it.

Mindflux…

The word materialized from another place. When she focused once more on Shakan, the wall relinquished slightly, allowing her glimpses of terrible, fleeting images moving through a dense fog. At once, she understood the nature of Shakan’s successful insinuation into the royal household, the mindflux undoubtedly a gift from Jhanvar. Against the royals there could not have been a more effective and simple defense.

Bloodline

Bloodline – Book 10 of the Samsara Chronicles

Intrigue and betrayal plague both Nirvana and Klatria, prompting Aislinn to call a tribunal of all Nirvanan nations to address the crisis.

While Vark, Soulmaster and corrupt ruler of Klatria, plots with the Nirvanan traitor to acquire the skull and kill the royals, insurrection grows from within the ranks of his own people. His intention to use Aislinn’s parents  as pawns to lure Aislinn to Klatria conceals his true intentions to destroy them all.

 

EXCERPT:

 

It is time…

Unobserved, he had taken his flyer and defied royal edict by traveling to the ruins. At first the castle seemed reluctant to admit him until he stepped inside and spoke. “It is I, Shakan, the son of the Many. I have come to do your bidding.”

Something unseen in the total darkness pressed against him, sniffed him and fluttered off to the sound of a keening wind. Attracted by a distant booming that reverberated through the stone floor, his attention was drawn to a heavy wooden door. The torchlight flickered like the eyes of a nocturnal animal, luring him toward a tiny glowing point embedded in the wood. And now…

More alone than he ever had been, the light abruptly stopped and hovered a short distance before him. He sensed rather than saw the catacomb beyond and carefully moved away from the stairs. As he was almost close enough to touch the eerie light, the walls began to tremble. Startled by the rumbling that shook the floor, he was about to turn back when something akin to a monstrous hand swatted his feet from beneath him. He collapsed to his knees, at the same time the light extinguished and he felt the pressure of hands around his neck.

Suddenly he emitted a bloodcurdling howl and violently threw his head back. His eyes rolled until only the whites showed, his lips uttering meaningless words. Though his body trembled, it was not from the cold. The muttering became a muffled scream until he abruptly silenced and his head dropped limply to his chest. His eyelids fluttered, closed, then half opened to regard the torch-lit main hall of the castle. No longer ruins, the fortress walls housed a bazaar attended by every tribe on Nirvana. Faces resembling his own mingled with the crowd, their finery a dazzling display of colors and fabrics set off with magnificent jewelry. Dark, fiery eyes turned toward him, voices became distinct, surfacing from the buzz of conversation and chorused in his mind.

Shakan, the time of reckoning is near. Will you fully embrace the mindflux as befitting the favored son?

A searing bolt of pain penetrated his skull. He gasped and dug his fingernails in his palms to offset the pain of the psychic assault. Mustering every reserve of willpower, he forced himself to keep a steady gaze on the apparition. Noble Janvhar, I have come as you instructed. I am your willing servant.

Netherworld

Netherworld, Book 9 of the Samsara Chronicles

Directed by one of their Earthly guides, Aislinn and Dylan venture to the Overlap, an ancient castle situated within a temporal rift where they discover the nature of Shakan’s treachery.

Seeking answers regarding the kidnapping of her parents, Aislinn and Dylan follow one of their Earthly guides to the mysterious Overlap, a temporal rift situated within an ancient castle. There they experience past events that reveal the nature of the rival Nirvanan bloodlines as well as the identity of the traitor in league with the Klatrians.

EXCERPT:

She felt a fleeting caress against her cheek and stopped. Turning slightly, she felt it again, though this time stronger. The draft ruffled her hair, the musty odor reminiscent of the gush of stale air expelled by the arrival of a subway train. She felt the skull glow through the cloth. Her stomach tightened in anticipation. “Dylan—”

She had barely grabbed his hand when the vortex exploded through a barred door like a cannon shot, its resonance a banshee scream. Swept off their feet, Aislinn desperately clutched the skull while Dylan struggled to keep a grip on her. They slid along the cold stone. Ahead, Dylan spotted the recessed niche to yet another barred door and half scooted, half crawled toward it. Pressed close to him, Aislinn glanced behind and gasped as an infernal glow oozed from the open doorway. The malevolence emanating from it reminded her of the entity that had first terrorized her in her apartment on Earth. A nauseating stench of scorched rubber filled the air.

“My God, what is that?” Dylan cried, cradling Aislinn against his chest.

Strands of loosened hair whipped around her face and almost dislodged her tiara. She slipped the skull from the sling, gripped it and focused on the vortex. Her ring sparkled like a Roman candle. Reveling in its freedom, the vortex churned, writhed and ricocheted off the walls in a bizarre dance of exaltation. The walls trembled from the force, the doors rattled in sympathy. Pushing the din from her mind, Aislinn felt her fingers merge with the skull, the energy forming a bond with her ring. It flared, crackled and fanned out, immersing the shadowy ruins in immaculate white light.

“Get out!” she cried. “Return to the dimension that spawned you. You have no power here.” Defiantly, she rose into the buffeting wind and raised the skull.

Dylan reached to stop her but she stepped away from his grasp. He pressed himself into the door niche and shielded his eyes from the skull’s almost solar glow.

“You’re nothing,” she continued. “Merely a shadow of the past and the hatred that nurtured you.”

 

Nirvana

Nirvana – Book 8 of the Samsara Chronicles

Dylan, Aislinn and the chosen humans arrive on Nirvana but now the pair faces another alien threat, this time to their homeworld.

Aislinn and Dylan’s joyous homecoming to Nirvana is tempered by yet another crisis. Aliens, assisted by a traitorous member of Nirvanan security and a threat to the royal bloodline, have kidnapped Aislinn’s parents and hold them hostage on the dying world of Klatria. Aislinn and Dylan now face the task of rescuing them before they are killed.

EXCERPT:

Aislinn gasped as a sensation of coldness washed over her. At that moment, the woman doubled back and veered onto a path near the fountain. As if sensing Aislinn’s scrutiny, she suddenly paused and raised her eyes. Their glances locked, and a hostility beyond description emanated from the woman’s gaze. Bolting off at the sound of shouting, she somehow lost her footing and fell onto a sunny part of the path. Witnessing the spectacle below, Aislinn clasped the railing with white knuckles.

“There! On the path!” she cried out, the breeze carrying her voice downward to the guards, spurring them into action. Snared by the sunlight, the woman struggled to rise as though stunned. Her reactions were sluggish. She glared balefully and tried to bolt from the contingent of approaching guards, but stumbled again.

Dylan returned a moment later. “It’s okay. They won’t get away. The guards have been on alert since yesterday’s incident. These two have actually been spotted before, but managed to get away.”

Aislinn frowned at the woman’s increasing agitation. She stumbled with the uncoordinated movements of a drunkard.

“Dylan, look!”

A guard advanced on the disoriented woman while a second jumped her from behind and tackled her to the ground. The woman fought the men with unbelievable viciousness before her body abruptly slackened in their grip.

“Watch yourself!” Aislinn cried out to the guards, again sensing the woman’s malevolence.

Almost on cue, the woman exploded into a frenzied resistance. The second guard was caught by surprise and barely missed her flailing fists. It took both a supreme effort to subdue her. Aislinn watched in horror as the woman’s fury transformed into agony. Writhing in the sun, she began screaming and clawing at her face, the epidermis peeling off in shriveled, parchment-like strips. Even from a distance, Aislinn could see revulsion in the guards’ faces as the woman savagely gouged her flesh. Muddy fluid jetted from the wounds, and despite the intervention of a third guard, none could stop her self-mutilation.

Aislinn shook her head as if to banish the ugly scene. “Dear God, is this what we’re up against?”

 

Exodus

Exodus – Book 7 of the Samsara Chronicles

Sheltered at the Emerald lake beyond the reach of the dark forces, Aislinn and Dylan transition into their roles as the celestial portal opens.

Besieged by the Eletarii, humanity struggles in its final hour.  Legions assemble by the lake where they descend into the basest depravity wait while Aislinn and Dylan prepare to open the gate at midnight, a portal through which only a chosen few will pass.

 

EXCERPT:

 

Vancouver roiled in its death throes as an infernal light seared the sky and cast a bloody hue on the city. The clouds parted, revealing a fleet of ships that descended from the conflagration and hovered above the fleeing masses. Fueled by the faceless terror concealed in the winged vessels, the last semblance of normality crumbled while a desperate populace sought escape.

Besieged by armies of elementals and chameleon infested, the few remaining services ground to a halt, plunging the city into darkness and despair. Vehicles littered the roads and highways like corpses as the exodus veered toward a place that existed only as a vision.

“The lake!” rose a universal cry. “Sanctuary waits at Emerald Lake…”

Above, the fleet of ships directed the panicked crowds like dogs driving a herd of sheep.

Screams penetrated the endless night, the cry of children a soul-wracking litany. The ferocity of the winter was no match for the terror that prodded humanity’s desperate survivors into the jagged snow-capped mountains beyond. The snow was dotted with dark shapes huddled in blankets, overcoats or anything that would give them warmth.

In the struggle to reach Emerald Lake, human fell upon human, the last traces of sanity crumbling like wave-tossed sandcastles. Mothers abandoned screaming babies, young people left their children or parents behind. Humanity raced against the last minutes of the world, the finishing line—a place known only as a sanctuary. No one knew where or how the rumors about Emerald Lake had started, only that their destination awaited them in the distant mountains.

An eerie green mist funneled from the ships and cocooned selected groups from the mob. They raised their arms entreatingly to embrace the darkness that consumed their souls, their cries welcoming the diabolical baptism. Emptied of the last vestiges of humanity, their souls forfeit, the possessed fell upon those hovering between belief and unbelief, between the darkness and the light.

 

Maelstrom

Maelstrom, Book 6 in the Samsara Chronicles

Relentlessly pursued by the military and forced to cross the mountains on foot, Aislinn and Dylan discover an ally in the form of a white wolf that guides them to safety.

Forced to abandon their vehicle, Aislinn and Dylan must cross the treacherous mountains on foot. Close behind is the military, whose corrupt leader must honor his pledge to the Eletarii to capture them. But as more guides appear to help Aislinn and Dylan, they are brought to the sanctuary of Emerald Lake.

EXCERPT

“They’re out there, maybe three or four men.”

“Elementals?”

She shrugged. “Yes. I hardly think anyone else would bombard us like this.”

Dylan scanned the immediate area and the deserted highway beyond. The rocks and fallen trees provided endless hiding places.

A fiery glow suddenly illuminated the walls around them. They turned in unison and stared in disbelief as a gibbous light emanated from the canvas bag.

“The skull,” she said.

They glanced at each other. She slowly approached the bag and gazed into the kaleidoscopic colors. Without fear, she removed her gloves, reached inside and clasped the skull. Her eyelids fluttered in response to intense warmth that coursed through her flesh.

Dylan moved toward her as a diaphanous veil of color enveloped that insinuated through and around her like an ocean current. “Are you okay?”

Fixing her eyes on the skull, her expression suddenly became vacant. “The way is clear,” she murmured in what Dylan recognized was Italian, then again several times in various other languages. He overcame his fear and approached. With an awestruck expression, he gazed into the bag to see Aislinn’s hands merged with the glowing skull. A ribbon of light emerged from the eye sockets and spiraled to the ceiling. Continuing her recital in strange tongues, as though making an announcement to a distant audience, he watched the other talismans shimmer with almost dazzling intensity.

A voice suddenly boomed around them. Dylan started. Its resonance echoed off the walls and broke Aislinn’s trance. The beam of light winked out and her eyelids fluttered open. She withdrew her hands from the still glowing skull.

“Yes?”

The path of escape is clear. Blow the trumpet. Its sound will not disturb the pure. Those who wait for you will not be able to withstand it.

“Joshua brought the walls of Jericho down with the sounding of his trumpet,” Aislinn said.

Yes, and so will you bring down the elementals who await you outside with the sounding of this trumpet. We have shielded you against their assault, but now you must go. The way is clear…the way is clear…

The voice faded to a whispering resonance.

Sergeant Wayne Patterson of the Burnaby Police Force jumped up from his creaking swivel chair and banged his beefy fist on the desk. Papers scattered from the impact, his ruddy face slowly mottling as he vented his frustration. “Dammit! We can’t afford to lose another two men. We’re understaffed as is and all morale is shot to hell.”

Captain Rod Garring sighed wearily from behind his desk. Double shifts, lack of sleep and the efforts of maintaining a semblance of peace in the city had aged him beyond his fifty years. His once thick chestnut hair was prematurely gray. Cropped short to conceal his thinning scalp, it severely framed the deeply etched lines of his face. Shadows circled his bloodshot hazel eyes echoing the darkness consuming his spirit. Cramped for hours within the dreary confines of the station, battling the never-ending war of shrinking manpower and morale, it took a supreme effort to deal with Patterson’s rage. The man’s petulant voice grated on his ears to the point of discomfort, and he felt the familiar blood-pressure induced headache throbbing at his temples, his heart beating far too fast. Though it shamed him to admit it, there were times when he felt like fleeing into the night when faced with an outburst from his officers. He forced himself to arrange the scattered paperwork on his desk and stared disapprovingly at the sergeant.

“Sit down, Patterson,” he said tensely. “Making a scene won’t bring those men back.”

Patterson sank grumbling into the chair, his portly body overflowing the battered seat. Unable to keep still, he ran his hand repeatedly through lank dirty blond hair complemented by an equally lank blond moustache.

“I agree we can’t afford to lose any more men but it’s too late to do anything about it now,” Garring said. “We’ve lost two good cops. Tomorrow we’ll probably lose more. Anger won’t help matters.” He retrieved a manila file precariously perched on his in-tray. “I’ve read your report. It seems unlikely that Young could have killed these officers alone. He must have had an accomplice. I also feel that the report is somewhat exaggerated in respect to the carnage described. What’s wrong with you? This sounds like nonsense from some B-rated science fiction film.”

Patterson’s dark eyes flashed indignantly. “With all due respect, Captain, if you read the reports that came in from Vancouver, you’ll find a similar scenario.”

Garring sighed and glanced at the stack of reports littering his desk. His head ached from the low intensity lighting and the stale air. Not even the background bustle of the station was a comfort to him anymore. “Do you have any idea how many reports I receive each day, Patterson? I barely have time to sift through the most urgent, let alone the lower priority.”

“I would hardly call the murder of two cops low priority!” Patterson cried. He reached for a battered manila folder lying on top of the stack and leafed through a sheaf of papers. He pulled one sheet out and handed it to Garring. “Read this, sir.”

The Captain squinted at the paper then reached for his glasses and read more intently. He shook his head as he scanned the text. “What the hell is this bullshit? More slasher stuff. What are we dealing with here? Some kind of demonic cult? You know Young quite well. Do you honestly think he had anything to do with all this? For God’s sake! He’s one of our best men! You think he’s suddenly turned into some kind of monster?”

EXCERPT: to buy, click HERE

A scent drifted into my nostrils, a scent I didn’t want to smell on the most important day of my life. Had he really dared to set foot on hallowed ground? How had he gotten in? Only invited guests were permitted inside the church. Paul. He had invaded the most precious day of my life. I turned off my mind to outsiders, to the soft whispers from the congregation, instead, concentrating on Paul and hopefully reading what he had in mind. I was sure he wasn’t there to applaud our marriage. What I learned, was not good.

Won’t they get a shock at the reception? I wish I could be there to witness the spectacle. It was hard enough getting into the church. Pollurn is proving to be a valuable aide. Since he discovered Katarina is his rival, his quest to get rid of her equals mine. I must have been out of my mind when I ordered my cloning and stupid enough to let them convince me to give up the throne. I’d hoped the whelp could be influenced, that I could reign through him, but he proved to be a stubborn son of a bitch. And then to find out he’s a vampire after all… But he’s not like the rest of us. I’ve got no idea how Derek accomplished the removal of blood lust. He’s got my abilities, will remain young for years just like me, yet he’s nothing like me. If I’d known, I never would have agreed to step down. Yet, I couldn’t keep reigning forever, I had little choice. I hope I convinced Pollurn it’s too risky to crash the reception. There won’t be a place set for us at the tables and that would cause questions. Then again, his magic is strong. He could probably conjure that up, too. Nah, can’t take that risk. Oh, but if I could be a fly on the wall…

I heard him laugh inwardly, manic laughter that formed a ring of ice around my heart.

At least Pollurn came up with the most exquisite plan. I couldn’t have done any better myself.

I quickly blanked Paul out. His thoughts were more than disturbing and I wondered what awaited us at the reception.

When Katarina finally joined me at my side, and I turned to look at her, I almost gasped. She was a fairytale princess come to life. Though the thin veil covered her face, I could see her clearly and I smiled reassuringly, mouthing without trying to move my lips too much, I love you, you look gorgeous. She smiled at me sweetly, but I hadn’t closed my mind to her, so I heard her thoughts.

Something isn’t right. I can sense it. Mahaka told me I would be able to intuit my enemies and I feel there’s one among the guests. It’s Pollurn. He’s here, but why? How did he manage an invitation? Why is he here? What is he planning?

I looked down into her eyes and saw the fear hovering in their depths. I waited for more thoughts, but the ceremony started and her mind strayed to our moment in time. I couldn’t help wondering about our two antagonists. Why are Pollurn and Paul here? Like Paul, how did he manage to get an invitation? Didn’t Mahaka tell us Pollurn was an apprentice, just like Katarina? Is he strong enough to conjure up an invitation? Did he hypnotize the attendants into thinking he and Paul had invitations in their hands? Why are they even in the church if their plan is for the reception? What awaits us there?