Thursday, 25 May 2017
Title: Beach Brides Series
Genre: Sweet Romance
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR
Blurb: Coming May through August 2017!
Grab your beach hat and a towel and prepare for a brand new series brought to you by twelve New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors…
Beach Brides! Fun in the summer sun!
Twelve heartwarming, sweet novellas linked by a unifying theme.
You’ll want to read each one!
BEACH BRIDES SERIES
Twelve friends from the online group, Romantic Hearts Book Club, decide to finally meet in person during a destination Caribbean vacation to beautiful Enchanted Island. While of different ages and stages in life, these ladies have two things in common: 1) they are diehard romantics, and 2) they’ve been let down by love. As a wildly silly dare during her last night on the island, each heroine decides to stuff a note in a bottle addressed to her “dream hero” and cast it out to sea! Sending a message in a bottle can’t be any crazier than online or cell phone dating, or posting personal ads! And, who knows? One of these mysterious missives might actually lead to love…
Join Meg, Tara, Nina, Clair, Jenny, Lisa, Hope, Kim, Rose, Lily, Faith and Amy, as they embark on the challenge of a lifetime: risking their hearts to accomplish their dreams.
Participating Authors & Titles:
MEG (Julie Jarnagin) – May 23, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2rgC1mf
TARA (Ginny Baird) – May 30, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qVDKdP
NINA (Stacey Joy Netzel) – June 6, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qfSdA5
CLAIR (Grace Greene) – June 13, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qfSrHe
JENNY (Melissa McClone) – June 20, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qV952j
LISA (Denise Devine) – June 27, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qbjQOE
HOPE (Aileen Fish) – July 4, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qVgkHg
KIM (Magdalena Scott) – July 11, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qfvXXf
ROSE (Shanna Hatfield) – July 18, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qV6oOc
LILY (Ciara Knight) – July 25, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2qfM2vN
FAITH (Helen Scott Taylor) – August 1, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2rgSjM3
AMY (Raine English) – August 8, 2017 - http://amzn.to/2rgDedo
** $2.99 on Kindle, FREE in Kindle Unlimited **
Title: Possessed by a Vampire
Author: Susan Griscom
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Hosted by: Lady Amber's PR
Blurb: They possess the power to make their dreams come true—but it won’t be easy.
Preston Knight—Elvis to his friends—loves being a vampire. The night he was turned was the first step to him becoming the kind of man he always hoped to be. Now, he’s a rock star. What could be better? But the one thing that would make his world complete is just out of reach. The woman he yearns for has some serious secrets, and despite him knowing that she wants him just as much as he wants her, she won’t let him in.
Lily Gray never asked to be a vampire. The choice was taken from her eons ago, and things never improved. Now, she finds herself peddling drugs on the streets of San Francisco and playing the part of doting wife to a possessive and sadistic vampire with delusions of grandeur. But family means everything to Lily, and she’s willing to sacrifice everything for it…even her one chance at happiness with the sexy-as-sin vampire who sets her heart ablaze.
When one night of passion opens the door for a century of secrets to be revealed, Lily and Preston must fight for not only what they believe in but also what they love.
Susan Griscom writes paranormal and contemporary romance. She's hooked on sexy romances and is a huge fan of superheroes and bad boys confronted with extraordinary forces of nature, powers, and abilities beyond the norm mixed with steamy romance, of course.
She loves those days when she gets to sit around in her sweat pants, doing nothing but writing emotionally charged stories about love and violence.
She lives in Northern California in wine country and one of her favorite weekend excursions is wine tasting with the love of her life. Together, she and her romantic husband have five great superhero kids and eight mini-superhero grand kids, so far.
Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/SMGriscom
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2efYV8l
Facebook personal: https://www.facebook.com/SMGriscom
Buy Links: Tempted by a Vampire (Free): http://amzn.to/2eBYh0S
Captivated by a Vampire: http://amzn.to/2oFioiU
Rocked by a Vampire: http://amzn.to/2pXTE6u
Possessed by a Vampire: http://amzn.to/2oFsb8p
“It’s up to you, Elvis.” Lincoln, the dealer, nodded in my direction and waited. I kept my gaze trained on the center of the table where chips sat in a small pile. I didn’t need to look at my cards again. I knew what I had: an eight and a queen of hearts.
There were six vampires at the table, counting both Gage and me. Gage had folded right after the deal, and so had one of the other players. I was the last to bet, and sometimes I liked to spice things up a bit, so I matched the bet and sat back.
Heavy smoke hung in the air like delicate streams of fog, swirling in circled patterns under the light hanging from a long cord above the table. Four other lamps hung on fixtures attached to the otherwise stark, tawny brown walls. Even with all the bulbs, the room seemed dark.
Maybe it was the darkness of the souls in the room. I wasn’t sure.
A droning sound buzzed from outside. It was a little annoying, but I managed to drown it out as I nonchalantly watched the faces around the table as the dealer placed the three cards of the flop face-up, revealing a nine of hearts. He slowly separated them, sliding the top card off the nine to reveal a jack of hearts.
It was raining hearts for some reason, and I held two of them already. I held my breath, waiting to see the third card in the flop. The dealer slid the jack over. Crap, an eight of diamonds.
Not exactly what I was looking for, but a pair of eights with a queen high wasn’t completely a loss so I decided to hang in there and see if one more heart would show. There were still two cards to go, and a flush was possible.
I kept my eyes straight, my thoughts blank—or I tried—like I usually did as each card was revealed, always attempting to keep my composure, never deviating from the norm, not wanting to give away my emotions. I was an expert at reading people. Especially in a poker game. A blink of an eye, a slight twitch, a swallow, the slightest movement, anything . . . different could give someone’s hand away. I wanted to reach up and finger my shades that sat on top of my head. Just one little nudge and they’d be sitting comfortably on my face, shielding my eyes. But not only were dark glasses frowned upon in this high-stakes game of Texas Hold ’em, but any movement out of the ordinary might tip someone off about my cards.
This wasn’t our normal gathering with my brothers at the mansion. This was a high roller, unsanctioned but heavily guarded poker game with some seriously high-powered city officials that I’d bet my right nut were a drug cartel of some sort or another. The two thugs in the monkey suits positioned on either side of the door to the entrance had stood like statues most of the night; the bulge of a holster protruding from under their jackets an obvious clue. At least they were on the outside of the room, but they still remained at the ready if their services were required.
Gage and I didn’t normally seek out games with such high stakes, but he’d been bored lately, and when he ran into Lincoln—the game’s host—at Club Royal a couple of weeks ago, Lincoln had invited Gage and me to join. Said they’d recently lost two of their regulars and needed a couple of fill-ins.
When Gage had approached me, I shrugged him off at first, not wanting any part of something that sounded so sketchy. But after he’d pestered me for the entire week, I finally gave in, needing a distraction from the long hours—sometimes days—apart from Lily, the sexy and sweet vampire I’d been trying to get to know better. Except, for the past few months, she was either playing hard to get, or just wasn’t that interested in me. Though I had a difficult time believing the latter of those two options since she continued to meet me whenever she had the time or, in her words, “could get away.” Away from what, I hadn’t been able to find out. Yet.
Getting thoughts of Lily off my mind was nearly impossible. Her fair, silky-smooth skin; her mesmerizing dark coffee eyes that could hold my gaze for hours on end; the tips of her long, thick locks kissing the cleavage of her breasts where my lips longed to skim. I managed to clear my head just in time, as it was my turn to bet again. I slid my bet forward, raising the pot three thousand for appearance’s sake. In truth, without another heart or a ten, I had squat. I didn’t think the pair of eights would cut it. I had an excellent chance for a straight or a flush if either of the next two cards went my way. Since Gage had already folded, he sat still as a statue beside me, his hands together on the edge of the table. I knew he was busting a gut wondering what I held in my hand.
There were only four of us left in this hand, and I didn’t want to go home with a loss. Not against these guys. Two of them sat puffing on brown cigarettes, looking rather tough. They were tough, the sort who would drain the blood from a homeless person and leave them to die in the gutter without so much as a “thank you, ma’am.” Particularly, the one at the end with the light brown, wool Stetson on his head. The word dangerous exuded from his pores. He wore that hat pulled low on his brow, shading his eyes just enough to where it was legal but not enough to reveal much about him. A neatly trimmed goatee graced his chin and upper lip. A long ponytail made of cornrow braids hung down his back. He seemed on edge, or maybe it was just an act to throw me off.
Which he did when he raised another five thousand. That was steep. Not that I didn’t have the money. These days, my bank account overflowed, but it wasn’t that way in the beginning. I hadn’t always been the man I was today, and money hadn’t been abundant back then. The circumstances surrounding my rebirth as a vampire weren’t something I would likely forget, though I’d never spoken about them, not even to Gage. The way I’d been turned hadn’t exactly been conventional vampire behavior and had left an ache in my soul I didn’t understand and an emptiness that I could never satisfy.
I peeked at my cards and considered the raise. Either the guy had something powerful, or he was bluffing his ass off and had nothing. Since I had the queen of hearts, I knew he couldn’t have a royal flush. But that didn’t rule out a straight or four of a kind. The bald-headed guy next to him folded, as did the next two. Now it was up to me, and six thousand was just about all I had left in chips, so I shoved the entire stack I had into the middle of the table.
“I’m all in,” I said with feigned confidence.
After the bet had been matched, the dealer flipped the fourth card.
A fucking nine of spades.
I watched out of the corner of my eye as cowboy hat’s mouth curved up on one side, the tip of his fang biting into his lower lip. Could mean he was nervous. Or cocky. Either way, my hand was dead unless a ten or another heart showed up.
My heart skipped a beat when the fifth card was flipped over. There it was, sparkling as if someone had lit it on fire. I managed to keep my composure as I chilled, though I could have sworn I heard fireworks go off outside.
The beautiful ten of hearts.
Stetson vamp chuckled and said, “Too bad. You played a nice hand.” Then he laid down his cards. A pair of nines, giving him four of a fucking kind, which would beat most hands. When he started to grab at the pile of chips, I cleared my throat.
“Hold on there, space cowboy,” I heard myself say, not sure if the cockiness in my voice would help or hinder, but that pile of chips in the center of the table belonged to me, and there was no fucking way I was letting this douche have them. I had a fucking straight flush, queen high. Beat that you fucking cocksucker. I wanted to gloat but managed to keep my cool and simply turned the two cards in my hand over and placed them face up on the table.
His face paled, if that were possible. His dark-stubbled jaw flexed. His eyes narrowed to slits. His left ear twitched, and he placed both his palms on the table as he stood, glaring at me. Everyone sitting around the table stiffened. The chips lay in a heap in the middle. He kept his large, ebony eyes on mine, gaze never faltering. I allowed myself to stare right back, not moving a centimeter. I was good at stare-out games. I’d had a cat, many in fact, and we constantly used to play this game. Stetson hat was no different in my mind. Though I was positive he thought differently. This guy was too fucking arrogant for my taste. I’d wondered from the moment I sat down if he was going to be trouble.
“Jace, you ready?” he barked.
The guy at the end of the table—Jace, I assumed—nodded. “Yep, I’m all tapped out. Ladies.”
Stetson hat shrugged into a light brown wool coat, generously embellished with dark brown fur at the lapel, all the while keeping his gaze glued to me. “Be sure to join us again. I look forward to the opportunity to win that back.” His eyes briefly averted to the large pile of chips in the middle of the table before returning to mine, and then he touched the rim of his hat and nodded like he was fucking Clint Eastwood. “Gentlemen.” He kept his lips tight as he turned and walked out. Stopping by another vampire on his way, he looked down at him, made some sort of gesture with his hand, and left the room. Jace, and two other large vampires went with him.
Gage cleared his throat. “Fuck, man. That was intense.” The three dudes left at the table all sighed heavily.
The vampire that Stetson hat had gestured to stood up. “Roach would like you to join him at his employer’s mansion.” Roach? What the fuck kind of person named their kid Roach? I almost laughed. The poor guy. No wonder he was so intense. “It is open to you any Friday evening. That is the night they entertain small groups. Midnight. Here’s the address.” He slipped me a card. I glanced down at the etching on the flat piece of metal.
Whatever your pleasure, we’ve got it.
Sweet Towers, Sky Deck.
When the vampire left, Gage grabbed the card from me. “Shit. Looks like he wants a rematch.”
“Well, he isn’t getting one,” I retorted and threw the fancy card down on the table. This was over right now. I didn’t want any part of whatever the fuck that guy was dealing.
“I wouldn’t be so quick to pass on that invite if I were you, Elvis,” Lincoln, the vampire who’d hosted the night’s game, said. “That vampire works for Sweet, one of this city’s most dominant and influential business owners. He has the support of the local labor board, as well as several other highfalutin bigwigs in the city. It’s quite the honor to be invited, even if it was by his right-hand man. Sweet doesn’t give out invitations to his private parties very often. And his parties don’t have anything to do with card games, if you get my drift. Roach must have liked you.” He winked.
I raised my eyebrows at Lincoln in question.
“You know. Sex, drugs. Those kinds of parties. Group or single, whatever you desire. Or so I’ve heard.”
Whatever kind of parties, I wasn’t into group sex or drugs. I had a woman, or at least a woman I wanted, as the vision of Lily’s striking brown eyes set against her smooth, deep black hair floated through my mind I got to my feet and shrugged into my jacket. “Come on, Gage, let’s split.”
As Gage and I strolled down the sidewalk through the Tenderloin, we noticed a couple of ladies of the night hanging out on the adjacent corner.
“That was a grueling hand. Made me a tad thirsty, what about you?” Gage asked.
I shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”
I was a bit dry since I hadn’t taken in any fresh blood for a day or so, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time to quench my thirst right at that moment as visions of Lily’s lovely face floated into my head. It was difficult to shake them away because I was excited to get to the bar where we usually met, hoping she would be waiting there for me.
But Gage’s suggestion sparked a need I hadn't considered, and I gave in. As we flashed across the street directly in front of the two women Gage quickly compelled both of them to not be alarmed by our sudden appearances. Then he sank his fangs into the neck of the one closest to him. The other stood still, staring blankly at me. My own fangs dropped at the thought of drinking her blood. As I sank my canines into her vein, I had to remind myself that I needed the energy this would provide me in order to fully enjoy my time with Lily without the annoying pang of hunger distracting me.
Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Title: Chasing His Cottontail
Author: A.R. Barley
Genre: MM Paranormal Romance
Publisher: MLR Books
A.R. Barley lives in the Motor City with a dog (who's currently annoying the cat), a cat (who's doing his best to avoid the dog), and an engineer. She likes hot drinks, hotter novels, and ice cream. She writes seven days a week (when she's not playing referee to the dog and the cat) and is always happy to hear from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach her on Facebook and Twitter!
Monday, 22 May 2017
Title: The Lightning Progeny
Author: Emily Cyr
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Cover Designer: Najila Qamber
Model: Amee Gaddy
Photographer: Mandy Hollis
Expected Release Date: June 19, 2017
Title: Reckless Devotion: Book Two
Author: Jennifer Domenico
Genre: BDSM, Erotica
Cover Designer: Wicked by Design
Editor: Mad Hatter Press
Expected Release Date: June 19, 2017
The Sunflower Trilogy -
~Book One: Turn Towards the Sun - http://amzn.to/295Odi4
~Book Two: After the Rain - http://amzn.to/292RLiR
~Book Three: Forever in Bloom - http://amzn.to/292RyfI
Have my Heart- A Novella - http://amzn.to/292S1yk
Beautifully Twisted - http://amzn.to/295OdP2
Chasing Desire - http://amzn.to/28ZlYik
Londyn Falls - http://amzn.to/295Orpg
Exposed - http://amzn.to/28YscR4
Break Me Down - http://amzn.to/28Z8aSY
If I Told You - http://amzn.to/2dVvsj1
At First Glance - http://amzn.to/2e5U2NJ
When I Found You - http://amzn.to/2gpzwUJ
Unexpectedly Royal - http://amzn.to/2jZ05qN
Title: Rise of the Sea Witch
Author: Stacey Rourke
Genre: YA Fantasy/ Fairy Tale and Folklore
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Anchor Group Publishing
Blurb: Details of the sea witch’s banishment have been exaggerated. The body count that preempted it was not. Once an illustrious princess, her hands and tentacles were stained with the blood of thousands. No one could comprehend how the hooks of madness dragged her down from her life of privilege.
Born Princess Vanessa of Atlantica, the ambitious young royal was one of two children born to the great King Poseidon. She and her brother, Triton, were groomed from birth to rule. Yet only one would ascend that coveted throne. While carefree Triton flits through his training with a cavalier demeanor and beguiling charm, Vanessa’s hunger for her father’s acceptance drives her to push herself to the limits of magic, and combat to become a leader worthy of her people.
When war against the humans ravages their once regal kingdom, political sides are chosen. Factions from the seven seas challenge the existing leadership, pitting Vanessa against her brother in a vicious battle for the crown. Traitors are exposed, dark family secrets revealed, and a once strong sibling bond is strained to its breaking point.
Only when the ink black waters from the ultimate betrayal rescind, will the truth be known of how the villainous sea witch rose with one name on her vengeful lips--Triton.
Young Adult and Teen Reader voted Author of the Year 2012
Turning Pages Magazine Winner for Best YA book of 2013 & Best Teen Book of 2013
Stacey Rourke is the author of the award winning YA Gryphon Series, the chillingly suspenseful Legends Saga, and the romantic comedy Adapted for Film. She lives in Michigan with her husband, two beautiful daughters, and two giant dogs. She loves to travel, has an unhealthy shoe addiction, and considers herself blessed to make a career out of talking to the imaginary people that live in her head.
Visit her at www.staceyrourke.com
Facebook at www.facebook.com/staceyrourkeauthor
or on Twitter or instagram at Rourkewrites.
I admit that in the past I was a princess. They weren’t kidding when they called me … well, a spoiled twit.” Tentacles rolling and churning beneath me, I turn to the newest member of my little garden with effortless grace. Arms thrown out wide, I grant the shriveled polyp a beguiling smile. Those around him tremble in fear, pulling as far away from him as their roots deep within the ocean floor will allow. “Through rather unfortunate circumstances it became mandatory I mend my ways. And, yes, some of the techniques I employed earned me the title of villain.”
“Never, my Queen,” Floteson murmurs. Coiling around my upper arm, he drapes himself across my shoulder.
Jetteson’s oily scales lovingly brush my cheek. “Every one of them was deserving of your wrath.”
Shoulders curling in, I pucker my lips which are freshly glossed by a crimson sea-flower and tenderly scratch each of them under their chins. “How horrible can I be to be so adored by such sweet babies?”
“She shows us nothing but love,” my darling zebra sharks chorus.
Their unwavering dedication soothes me, allowing me to expel a calming breath that bubbles in a wreath around my face.
“I am not the horrible beast many think me to be. Yet I feel it is your own misconceptions that brought you here, and led to … well, you know.” Floating passed my ornate vanity mirror, which seems out of place in the dreary cave I call home, I suck in my cheeks. Turning my head one way and then the other, I inspect my reflection. A smug smile curls the corners of my lips. The woman staring back at me is positively voluptuous with power, mayhem swirling within her clay-gray eyes. “Undoubtedly, you’ve heard rumors of my banishment.”
Hitching one eyebrow at my newly planted polyp, I watch him squirm under the weight of my attention.
“Do you even know my true given name, I wonder? Before hateful whisperings from the farthest reaches of the Seven Seas dubbed me The Sea Witch, I went by another name: Princess Vanessa of Atlantica. I harbored dreams of bringing peace and happiness to the kingdom … as their noble queen.”
Jabbing my hands on to my ample hips, I turn in a swirl of black and purple. “I’m not sure if that pitiful pout is caused by your deep longing to hear more, or if you’re mourning the loss of your shriveled limbs. But,” with a theatrical roll of my wrist, I snap my fingers—my cauldron sparks to life, an ethereal green glow simmering from within, “I choose to think the former because it’s about me … and all of my favorite things are.
“It would be predictable for me to say it all began with the death of my mother. Predictable and false.”
Water rushes beneath me with one mighty flap of all my tentacles. The power of the act propels me over to my alchemy shelves, where my fingers flick over the exposed vials. Some days I seek to terrorize my captives, calling out each ingredient or dangling it over their heads before tossing it into my brew.
Tongue of porpoise.
Eye of cuttlefish.
Shell of sea turtle.
I won’t lie and say watching their complexions green and bug eyes bulge isn’t a guilty pleasure of mine. For the moment, however, a wave of generosity—brought on by the mention of my mother—prompts me to toss them in without my usual theatrics. Each is received into the cauldron’s wide-mouth drum with a puff of smoke and spray of sparks.
“As much as I loved my mother, losing her didn’t drive me to madness as some would have you believe.” Hearing the melancholy in my tone, I bristle. “Far from it, in fact. I would have subjected myself to an abysmal existence of the mundane in honor of her memory. No, it was after the black flags of mourning had been strung through the kingdom, after the spectacle of her funeral procession had passed, that my descent began.”
Throwing one final ingredient into the cauldron, a veil of greasy smoke wafts from its rim. Images begin to form within the haze: the king’s regal quarters, and a formidable frame seated in a high-backed chair behind a massive stone desk.
Crouching down, I position myself eye level with the miniscule scene unfolding. My tentacles coil into tight knots beneath me. “This was the night … the night when I was touched by magic for the very first time … and loathed it to my very core.”
Within the ghostly image, the curtain to the king’s quarters is pushed open. A heavy set nursemaid with stripes of gray in the messy twist of her bun swims in. On one hip she balances a cherub-faced baby that’s only two months shy of his second birthday. Blond ringlets halo his head. Both his eyes and cheeks are ruddy from crying. The frazzled servant’s other hand clings to that of a raven-haired princess who rubs at her tired, violet eyes with a chubby, toddler fist.
“If you aren’t following along yet, that princess is me,” I explain to my captive audience. “The maid softly shushing my younger self is Loriana. Oh, how dear she was to me. She was a servant in the castle, tasked with tending to my brother and I. That little sunset orange tail poking out from behind her belongs to her son, Alastor. He was Triton’s best friend and would become much more than that to me ...”
“Sire,” respectfully bowing her head, Loriana readjusted her hold on Prince Triton, “I hate to interrupt.”
My father, King Poseidon, pushed his chair back from the desk in a swirl of water and sand, and rose in greeting. To the rest of the kingdom, he was known as simply the supreme ruler of Atlantica. To me, and my juvenile ignorance, he was the God of the Sea who towered over us all. I envisioned all of his enemies, and anyone that ever wished me harm, falling to their knees and trembling before his commanding presence. His hair and thick beard were the red of Precious Coral. Muscle rippled over every inch of his exposed torso. His narrow waist tapered into an emerald green tail that perfectly matched the shining jewels of his eyes. Countless times I had examined the lines of his face in search of some similarity between the two of us. None could be found. Triton had his smile, and later—when adolescence hit—he would inherit his strong chin. Me? Every inch of me was a lackluster shadow of my mother’s regal beauty. Where her eyes and tail sparkled like freshly polished amethyst, mine seemed dull by comparison. Or, perhaps the lighting from the pedestal I’d built for her in my mind shone for her with a more flattering shimmer.
“The hour is late. I welcome the interruption.” Poseidon set his fish bone quill onto the desk top, and positioned its stone cradle on top of it. “How can I be of service, Loriana?”
“It’s the children, Your Highness.” Her face a mask of maternal sorrow, Loriana gave my hand a quick pulse of comfort. “This is the first night they have ever tried to go to sleep without a lullaby from their dear mother. I’m afraid I can’t seem to calm their troubled little hearts.”
Poseidon’s broad chest expanded with a deep inhalation, and tipping his head he exhaled a flurry of rushing water and bubbles. “This is a troubling time for us all,” he agreed. Crossing the room with one stroke of his tail, he extended his hands to receive Triton. My brother waved his arms in eager delight, wriggling into the security of Father’s strong embrace. Inching forward, I blinked up at the mighty king. He floated past without so much as ruffling my hair. “I’m afraid I don’t have your mother’s gift of song, but perhaps we could sit a spell and find peace in our togetherness.”
Honoring her position outside of the room, Loriana gave me a gentle push forward to follow my father. Casting a tentative glance over my shoulder, I did just that. Poseidon swirled Triton around, eliciting a giggle that crinkled the corners of his ocean blue eyes, before the king collapsed on the sea sponge sofa with his darling son on his lap. I perched on the very edge of the far cushion, uninvited and unnoticed.
Before that moment our father had been more of a … hmm, how to put this delicately? A figurehead in our lives. We knew of him and regarded him fondly, but unfortunately his kingly duties allowed our primary interactions to be those staged for political potency. Our mother, the lovely Queen Titonis, spent her days caring for my brother and I with only Loriana to aid her. Now, Poseidon had no choice but to pick up the yolk. For Triton this transition seemed to be going swimmingly. I, however, was getting as much attention as the Orca-bone end table.
Hands under the little prince’s pits, Poseidon turned Triton to face him. “I was so proud of how you behaved during the processional today,” he gushed. “You honored not only me, but your mother’s memory when you clasped your tiny fist over your heart and held your head high as her carriage passed.”
“Follow Nessa.” Triton looked to me with love, his tailfin a muted clap when connecting with Father’s lap.
“Your sister has two whole years of further training and experience than you, my boy.” Poseidon’s shoulders raised, his voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. “You exhibited the poise of a true leader.”
My lips clamped shut to stifle a sob, his words stinging like a slap. I had just as much right to the throne as Triton, but this was the first moment I became painfully aware of who he longed to see succeed him. It would not be the last … or the most painful.
“She held her curtsy so long, merfolk threw flowers!” Alastor, a year and a half older and far more eloquent than Triton, darted into the room to brazenly interject. Mahogany waves curled over his earlobes, adding dimension to his round little face that resembled a bubble. The boldness of his gesture quickly shriveled under Father’s menacing glare.
“The son of a servant entering the king’s quarters?” Father boomed, one eyebrow raising in question. “One might question your upbringing, lad.”
“A thousand apologies, Your Majesty!” Loriana blushed from her neck clear up to her earlobes and snapped her fingers at her wandering boy. “Alastor, come here at once!”
Shoulders sagging like a stone cast to the depths, Alastor returned to his rightful place in the hall. The heat of his topaz stare bore into me as he paddled along, searching for even the slightest acknowledgement of his noble deed.
I had none to offer.
My own gaze had drawn away from my brother, laughing while Father tickled his cheeks with his beard, to scan the items neatly arranged on father’s desk. Inanimate objects which earned his attentions daily just by being. On the right side, closest to his scrawling hand, sat the quill. Its fat little ink pot was perfectly positioned perpendicular beside it. In the center of the desk, weighted by stones carved with the royal crest, rested a stack of scrolls awaiting the king’s notice. On the left-hand corner, Poseidon’s late night snacking needs were met by a plate of rolled and seasoned seaweed puffs.
The ink pot lured my attention back as if calling to me.
I had never had to work for attention in any capacity. My mother had always given it freely, and in limitless supply. Since she had been taken from me, I had unquenched needs: hugs, stories, and all of that … drivel. So, yes, I thought about acting out. I toyed with the idea of knocking over that little clay pot and letting the ink flow to ruin the staged perfection of father’s space. More than that, I wanted to. I wanted to hear him shout out my name in his menacing vibrato, because at least then he would have to acknowledge me. While my hands stayed folded neatly in my lap, as the good little mergirl I was, something within me I had never felt before reached out. Palpable energy, only I seemed privy to, crackled through the water to cradle the pot in its hold. I could feel it, poised and ready, awaiting my command. Biting my lower lip to fend off a threatening grin, my essence gave barely a nudge and the ink pot tumbled. A thick black cloud exploded over my father’s desk, staining the scrolls and ruining the once delectable wraps.
“Vanessa!” thundered my father, rocketing off the sofa. “Look what you’ve done!”
I turned toward him with feigned remorse … and screamed. The howl of terror tore from my chest until my gills ached and my throat was raw.
There was a buzz of activity: Poseidon calling to the nursemaid, Loriana swimming in as fast as her fins could carry her, Triton wailing in fear, Alastor trying to shush his friend from the doorway to which he’d been banished. I neither saw nor heard any of this.
Floating in the center of the room, bobbing with the current, was my mother.
Not the serene vision of loveliness I had known her to be that was full of life and love. Heck, I even would’ve happily settled for the slumbering beauty she appeared to be during her funeral. In vast contrast, the entity hovering before me had chunks of flesh gnawed away by assorted sea beasts. Cracked, ashen lips curled into a snarl. Black ooze bubbled through her teeth, dripping from her chin and clouding the water. My scream reached a fevered pitch, spots dancing before my eyes. The ghoul, who in life sang me to sleep, reached for me with one hand that had been gnawed to bone.
You see, by using magic I opened a door and allowed the darkness in. The cost being more than I could bear, I vowed to myself—as my consciousness waned—never, ever to dabble with such things again.
Oh, the lies we tell ourselves …