New website!

It wasn’t an easy decision, but after losing access for over a week here on Blog.com, and then having sporadic and slow refresh rates, I have had to make the big jump to another website/blog provider.

The new Nicola Claire website can be found at…

nicolaclairebooks.blogspot.com

So, come on over and join me there – all my Paranormal Romance & Contemporary Romantic Suspense Series plus freebies are all waiting for you to discover.

Enjoy!

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison and The Doors…

“This is the end,
beautiful friend.
This is the end.”

Something about that songs resonates in me today, because it truly is a bitter-sweet moment publishing the last book in the Kindred Series. Kindred came to me almost fully formed in my mind, and from the moment I started tapping away on the keyboard, Lucinda became a part of me. So real, but only ever to exist on the pages of a book.

I’ll miss her. I’ll sure as hell miss Michel. And everyone else in the Kindred World. But, I will get to visit with them through Georgia’s story, in the Mixed Blessing Mystery Series. So, although I am sad to see the end of twenty months worth of living, breathing and definitely dreaming Kindred, there is still a connection to that world, which I love.

I hope that I have created something that has brought some readers joy. It has certainly been a joy for me. And although Kindred was my début novel, Kiss Of The Dragon is my twelfth novel written. And I’ve still got two more completed novels going through editing right now. So, twenty months, fourteen books and an infinite number still inside my head, waiting patiently – or not so patiently for some – to get their turn on the keyboard.

What a ride!

So, here we go. The final moments for Lucinda and Michel. Kiss Of The Dragon can be purchased from the following websites:

Amazon (mobi format)

Smashwords (PDF, ePub & mobi formats)

And OK, Nook (Barnes & Noble) and iTunes (Apple iBookstore) and Kobo will take a week or so to list, but if you can’t wait, then buy the appropriate format from Smashwords instead.

Print formats will also follow in due course.

Description: “You do realise,” he whispered, his hand reaching up to brush my hair from my face. He began twining a strand around one of his fingers. “That you are my most magnificent obsession.” Magnificent obsession. I think I liked that. I certainly understood it. He was mine too.


The explosive conclusion to the Kindred Series.

Confronted with yet another curve ball, Lucinda finds herself in Álfheimr at the mercy of the Dökkálfa. And the Fey have unusual rules, rules which even the Dark Fairies like to stretch. Throwing herself into the political machinations of her hosts, Lucinda must negotiate her release. But what could the Dökkálfa monarch want that would mean Lucinda’s freedom?

Never one to have the patience for politics, Lucinda must adapt to new environments and new challenges, not just from the Fairies, but from all sides now. An old enemy rises to do more harm than good, forcing Lucinda to confront depths of loss she thought long buried. Struggling with her physical well-being, battling a political world that is now her home, and working against a powerful, devious and underhand enemy, Lucinda must draw on all her Light to succeed. However she is not alone. She is watched over by the spirit of a dragon. But everyone knows, the kiss of the dragon is as lethal as its flame.

Enjoy!

So, here it is! Your sneak peek into KOTD, just to get you all into the swing of things. I’m so excited about this last book in the series, and super excited to share a little of the story with you today… two days before launch.

This excerpt is from Kiss Of The Dragon (Kindred, #8) - the explosive conclusion to the eight book Kindred Series.

Read on for the first two chapters of KOTD, due for release on August 16th 2013.

Enjoy…

Chapter 1

Inevitable

“We bow before you, Champion. Master, we are your servants evermore.”

Stunned silence followed their words. The Iunctio Council having just pledged their undying allegiance to my kindred, rattling the walls and weighing down my heart. I was shocked, immobile. Scared shitless. The Dökkálfa were all standing stock still as well, controlled by their new King: Aliath. Their eyes as large as mine. But unlike me they were still ready for battle, their swords and daggers at their sides, hands firmly grasping the hilts, ready to charge at a moment’s notice. The vampires present in the Iunctio Council Chambers, in contrast, were preternaturally still, taking in the change in leadership or retreating from the fall-out that would ensue.

I continued to breathe in and out, trying to wrap my head around this new change in our circumstances. The Champion, the former one, was dead; dust on the marble floor. She had been a thorn in my side for so long, I felt a little hollow knowing she never would be again. But that wasn’t the crux of my problems. Michel was now the leader of the Iunctio. Their Champion. The Champion. He was in charge of the organisation I despised the most.

Oh dear Goddess, what would this do to him? To us?

He stood smoothly, in that puppet-on-a-string motion the vampires have, and turned slowly to take in all those around the room. Did he look different? Did the weight of what was now firmly placed on his shoulders change the man I knew? I hadn’t realised I’d stopped breathing, but was just staring at him in open consternation. Unable to comprehend what had just happened, what it could possibly mean for us. How life kept throwing curve ball after curve ball at my head.

His eyes found mine, he held my gaze for a second, maybe two, and then he was beside me, wrapping me up in his strong arms, laying feather-light kisses across my cheek. Burying his face in my hair. Relief coursed through me in a tsunami-sized wave. Michel would always love me, always want me, no matter what. I had no idea what this new position would hold, but I was sure he would continue to fight for us. I relaxed in the warmth of his arms and returned the kisses with equal passion.

Then reality came crashing back in and broke my heart.

The portals to Álfheimr were still closing, had been since the Iunctio started to receive Michel’s and my joining power. But now, we could actually feel them slamming shut, one after the other; the sensation of Faerie being successively cut off thrummed through the air of the Palais. I’m not sure how we could tell, maybe it was because it was our power that was fuelling the closure, but Michel pulled back and rushed to cup my face with both hands, fear and dread evident in his gaze.

“I thought with Sofiq dead…” he said, but didn’t go on. I had thought it too. With the Queen of the Dökkálfa no more, then the charm she had placed on me would be no more too. The charm that was being activated right now due to the portals to Álfheimr closing.

But, we had obviously thought wrong.

As the portals continued to shut, one after the other the fairies in the room stepped through shimmering rips in the air and disappeared. Pop after pop after pop. Michel’s hold became frantic, as though tightening his grip on my face would make it impossible for the charm to steal me away. He started shaking his head, whispering, “No, no, no, no,” again and again. I blinked away tears, sniffed unattractively… and felt myself being torn from his arms.

The last thing I saw on his face was desperation and then I found myself standing in the centre of the throne room in the Dökkálfa Palace. Angry fairies dressed in black in a multitude of coloured skins surrounding me, musical chimes escalating in volume on the air.

I shuddered at the look of hunger and outrage that graced each of their otherworldly beautiful faces and then as they began to come closer I grasped for my Light. One shot and they’d all back up. I pulled it close, getting ready to release it, thinking of nothing but blasting straight through their alien and unnatural selves.

Then Aliath walked through a ripple in space and stood before me. His hair a pure silver shining in the lights of the room, his eyes a vivid green so blinding I had to blink to clear my vision. The fairies all dropped to their knees in supplication as he reached out and threw a veil of something sticky over my head. I realised too late that it was one of those ethereal blankets the Dökkálfa had used on Sergei and Nataliya back at the Palais. Golden, filigree type pattern, a web of something that contained my Light. Within seconds it had seeped through my shields and I was cut off from what made me the Prophesied.

I slunk down onto my knees, a hollowness that went beyond the loss of my Light replacing all hope inside. Not only was I cut off from Michel, but I was also cut off from my Light.

“Why?” I asked in a voice that sounded so very far away.

“You are a guest in my Court,” Aliath replied in a voice full of authority I hadn’t heard from him before. “Your presence here is subject to my hospitality. I deem it necessary to isolate you from your Light.”

“I wouldn’t use it against you,” I said and was surprised I meant it. Aliath and I had a strange alliance, one that maybe was defunct now Sofiq was dead. But I’d honour it, I wouldn’t stop honouring it, until I had no choice left.

“That is promising, Princess. But for now this is how it must be.”

He turned away, showing me his back without fear I would attack. I was still holding my Svante sword firmly in my grasp, so his cocky confidence was telling. He said a few words in Fey and several Hyrða guards rushed forward. Within seconds I’d relinquished my weapons: sword, two silver stakes and a knife. Then they hauled me from the throne room and dragged me down hall after hall. Finally throwing me unceremoniously into a room, making me land hard on the cold stone floor. The door slammed shut behind me and a lock clicked loudly closed.

I rubbed my wrists where they had been strained taking my weight as I fell to the floor and glanced around the room.

“Well, this is familiar,” I muttered under my breath, casting an angry glance at the shadows in the corners of the room. The same room Michel and I had occupied the last time we had been held prisoner by the Dökkálfa. “Home sweet fairy home.”

I took a deep breath in, trying to decipher any lingering scents. There were none that I recognised. It had been months since Michel and I had been held captive in these rooms and his scent was no longer here. My head hung down at that thought, a pain so deep and achingly poignant reached to my very soul. What we had feared most had happened. I was in Álfheimr, cut off from Earth’s realm, and he was unable to reach me.

I had a sudden hopeful thought. When Michel had been pulled into Álfheimr last time, he’d still been able to send thoughts and visit me in my dreams, albeit briefly due to his diminished strength. I tried now, knowing our connection was that much stronger this time. We were joined kindred again, we had a Bond, there could be no more powerful a connection than that.

Nothing. Just an empty hollowness that went on for eternity. I shouted in my head, I sent emotions, images, anything I could. I reached out down the Bond connection, I could feel it still existing, still there, waiting patiently for us to use it. But when I did, it simply tapered off into the ether and disappeared. A small, slow teardrop slipped down my cheek. I brushed it away angrily.

So this was how it was going to be? I felt connected to my kindred, but I couldn’t use that connection. There was some measure of relief that I could tell the joining still existed at all, but it was short lived every time I automatically sought Michel out and came up with a blank. The portals closing had made it impossible to reach him and I would grow weaker and weaker without him by my side.

And what of Michel? He was now the Champion and was separated from his kindred Nosferatin. This was so not good.

I let a slow breath out and tried to marshal my thoughts. For now, I could do nothing about the separation. But I sure as hell would not believe this was the end. Michel was resourceful, determined when faced with insurmountable odds. His desire to reach me would be unfathomable. He would find a way. Of this I was sure. And I was not without abilities myself. I didn’t need access to my Light to be able to negotiate with Aliath. I had learned a lot recently whilst living in London and trying to survive the cut-throat world of vampire politics. What was a fairy compared to blood-thirsty vampires?

I stood to my feet and took a look down at myself. My strappy, stretchy, black cocktail dress was in shreds, coated in copious amounts of my blood, mixed with the blood of those I had slain. I knew I looked a sight. First things first. Get myself presentable, put on a strong, competent façade and then deal with the fairy fuckers who had locked me in this room and stolen my Light.

I managed to run myself a bath, they did have running water in the Dökkálfa Royal Court at least. Stripping off the remnants of my outfit I lowered myself gingerly into the steaming water. It smelled of mandarins. Left over bath foam from my last stay here. The familiarity of the scent gave me courage. I scrubbed my face and hands and then more carefully tended to the rest of my body. Although Aliath had healed the worst of my injuries, I was still covered in bruises and minor cuts and scrapes from head to toe.

By the time I exited the water, the foam had disappeared and had been replaced with a pale pink hue. My blood. The blood of my enemies. I quickly rinsed off in clean water and then towelled myself dry. Knowing the shadows had not only ears but eyes, I wrapped myself securely in the towel and walked across the bedroom to the closet. Row upon row of beautifully crafted black, white and grey dresses hung waiting for my perusal. The Dökkálfa may have consisted of many different coloured skins, but they all wore a uniform of black.

I wasn’t going to be fussy, I grabbed the first dress in the row and began to climb into it. Fairy dresses are similar to something from medieval times. Layer upon layer of material, intricate clasps and buttons, full floor-length skirts and tight fitting bodices. The dress I had blindly picked had a scooped neckline, three-quarter length sleeves and a cinched waist, with a multitude of petticoats sewn into the outfit itself. Once on, it made me look like a Dark Princess. All I needed was to curl my hair and wear a tiara and I’d be set.

I finger combed my hair and left it limp. It hung down to my shoulders now, not quite as hideously short as when I last left this Court, but still not back to its previous and preferred length just yet either. With some impressive contortionist moves I managed to do the buttons up at the back, by the time I finished I was exhausted. I wondered briefly if I was going to have my butterfly fairy maid to assist me on this trip to Álfheimr. I was surprised to realise I was looking forward to seeing the fīfrildi again. Sora had been a breath of fresh air on my last stay, if she was assigned to me again things would be looking up.

I walked back into the main room and looked around, unsure what to do next. I knew the door was locked, walking freely around the castle was not possible. I was confined to my room and at the mercy of Aliath. Just what would the Dökkálfa Grey Lord – no King – do now? Leave me to rot? Allow me no company so I may go crazy without conversation? Send for me to be tortured? I really had no way of knowing how he would act. I thought I understood the Grey Lord, well at least, kind of understood him. He had honour and worked by a strict set of rules. He had sworn to protect me, but was that now defunct?

I walked over and sat down on the bed. I’d been here no more than an hour and already I was getting stir crazy. There were no books, nothing to read or do. I could stare out the window and take in the intense colours and vibrant life of Álfheimr, but watching it would only make me want to be out in it. I wasn’t into self torture. Patience was obviously going to be the name of the game.

Bugger. I was never good at waiting quietly for others to get on and do something. I wondered briefly what Michel would do. He would consider this a game, something to master and perfect. He would act as though waiting patiently with nothing at all to do was the one thing he loved above all else. He would make himself comfortable and would pretend to sleep, relax, lower his guard. But instead he would be a coiled spring waiting for the opportunity to attack.

Well, no time like the present to take a leaf out of his book. He had been saying I was capable of political wheeling and dealing, of playing the game. Time to put it to the test.

I had been reclined on the bed, giving the impression of relaxed repose for two hours, when the door clicked unlocked and Sora floated in. The pretty yellow fairy fluttered over the threshold, her large Monarch butterfly-type wings shimmering in such quick movements it reminded me of a hummingbird. The sound of the delicate appendages flapping sent a thrumming through the air. She was dressed in a maid’s outfit; black with a white apron over the full skirt. A small yellow butterfly was sewn into the corner of the apron. A personal touch which made the Dökkálfa seem falsely more human than fairy.

Her long yellow-blonde hair was tied up in a knot on top of her head. A small, almost imperceptible yellow down covered her skin. Her big blue eyes lidded with long yellow lashes. She blinked rapidly as she came to a halt in the middle of the room. The hyrða behind her, satisfied that I wasn’t going to pounce, shut the door quietly and flicked the lock closed.

I rolled off the bed languidly and stood across from my friend. I’m not quite sure why I called her that, but she had looked after me when I was last here. When I thought Michel still dead and I had no way of getting home. She had taught me everything I now knew about the Dökkálfa and the Ljósálfar. She had tried her best to make me feel welcome, giving me familiar foods from home, the mandarin bath foam, coffee with fluffy milk. Books, games and company. She may have been instructed to do all of that, I’m not sure, but she had made that week of confinement more acceptable, survivable, than it would have been otherwise. For that I owed her my friendship.

I hoped she felt the same way.

“Princess,” she said and curtsied low. “Welcome back.”

I nodded and smiled, forcing myself not to say thank you, but instead, “You look well, Sora. I like the butterfly on your apron.” I pointed to her little embroidered motif and received a beaming grin in return.

“You must be hungry” she stated, being sure not to ask a question acquiring any debt. She still didn’t move from her formal stance in the centre of the room though.

“Yes, a little,” I replied, uncertain if my welcome back was genuine or not. She seemed happy, but her reluctance to relax sent warning bells off in my head.

“The King has agreed for you to eat.” How noble of him. “Food will be brought to your room in due course.” I nodded, trying to encourage her to go on, but instead she turned and started towards the door. I frowned in confusion.

“You have nothing else to tell me.” I made sure my voice was flat, no inflection to indicate a question. I had a sense that I needed to use every ounce of knowledge I had regarding the Fey, in order to get through the next few days. Sora was playing by the rules, so much so, that I had a very bad feeling about all of this.

There had been a small part of me that thought I wasn’t truly going to be a prisoner here. Aliath and I had an alliance. It may have been over now, but surely the Dökkálfa King felt something for me? Maybe I was being naive, maybe Queen Sofiq’s death at the hands of a Nosferatu would be placed at my feet. If the Dökkálfa believed I was to blame, what were the consequences going to be?

But the Queen’s death had been Aliath’s desire. Part of the obligation to having his aid in the breaking of my joining to Avery Rousseau. But I didn’t know what that would mean for me now.

I was so confused.

Sora didn’t answer my statement. That’s the joy of not being able to ask a question without incurring a debt. If I did ask a question, she would be forced to answer with nothing but the truth. But the pay-off for gaining that knowledge would be a debt of some sort. Right now, I couldn’t afford debts, therefore I couldn’t guarantee she would answer. Sora chose to ignore the implied question and simply left the room on near-silent wings.

I stood motionless for several moments, the realisation of how precarious my position currently was seeping in. Any trust I had built up with Aliath was clearly not a given. The slate had been wiped clean and I would have to start all over again to win him over. The enormity of the situation weighed heavily on my heart. If I didn’t get to see him soon, before the joining separation took its toll, my ability to think straight and act decisively would be diminished. Time was of the essence, but I was locked in a room without anything to aid my cause.

Fairies were not stupid. Aliath, I think, perhaps the most intelligent of the lot. Despite the fact that he had spent the better part of his long existence trapped in Álfheimr, imprisoned by the Ljósálfar, cut off from my world and anything to do with it, he had gained an enormous amount of knowledge since traversing Earth’s realm. He knew a lot about me, about vampires, about my life. He knew how I acted, how I responded to a given situation. He could predict accurately how I would behave locked in this room. The old me would demand an audience, knowing my strength would wane soon, determined to find an escape path even if I had to battle my way out of the quagmire I was currently in. I needed to do the exact opposite. I needed to think like a fairy, or more precisely, like a member of the Dökkálfa Royal Court. I wasn’t convinced Aliath was my enemy, but right now he was the gatekeeper and I needed to steal his keys.

I took a deep breath in, settled my nerves and began to scan my environment, searching for anything that could aid my escape. Half an hour later it was obvious the room would offer up no solutions. I gazed out the window for a few minutes, familiarising myself with the view. Escape within Álfheimr was useless. The Dökkálfa were still at war with the Ljósálfar, even if the portals were now all closed, that fact would not be changed. If I escaped the castle here, I could be captured by the Ljósálfar. That was the worst thing that could happen. My involvement in Prince Lutin’s death would mean Queen Isoleth would want my head for sure. No confusion there.

No, my only option was to battle the Dökkálfa. And by battle, I mean wage a political assault to win their confidence and gain back their trust. To do this I needed to see Aliath, something he was obviously not going to agree to any time soon. But the shadows in my room had eyes and ears. Everything I did and said would be relayed to Aliath. I may not be standing before him, able to gauge his reactions or response, but he would not be able to avoid me. The fact that I was being watched was a relief – surprisingly – because I could use it as a tool.

The Dökkálfa had thought me weaponless when confined in this room. They had thought wrong.

Chapter 2

Art In Motion

I worked hard to establish a routine. The only way to survive this captivity, this time locked in my room, was to break the day down into segments. Each section of my drill passed, was a step closer to my goal. And my goal was getting an audience with Aliath.

The first step on that path was to dress appropriately. But the only suitable outfit in my fairy wardrobe was underwear; tight fitting corsets and knee length drawers. I felt ludicrous, but I also knew whoever was monitoring the shadows in my room would be alarmed enough to pay attention. I wanted their attention. I wanted them to consider what I was doing and to feel compelled to let Aliath know.

I wasn’t about to huddle in a ball on the bed crying. I wasn’t going to stare out the window lost in deep thought, pining for my kindred. I wasn’t banging on the door demanding release. I was going to spend my days training. Establish an impressive routine, whilst passing the time and maintaining my sanity. Not to mention luring my prey to me.

Aliath craved courage. I was displaying courage in spades.

The first day dawned and set the tone for those to come. I’d wake to the sound of a tray of food being delivered and the hasty fluttering retreat of my fairy friend. I was guessing Sora was under strict instructions not to interact with me. I didn’t feel hurt, this was all part of the game. As ridiculous and senseless as the game was, I was able to detached from the negative emotions of abandonment her actions provoked.

I’d then get up and make my bed. Followed by eating my breakfast slowly, savouring the meal and spending a good hour in the bath afterwards to start my day. I knew I had hours and hours of tedium ahead of me, my only chance of passing them was to establish this routine, to stave off depression and the Dark that inevitably threatened. Where there is Light, there is always Dark. I knew better than to let it gain any purchase.

After my morning bath came weight and fitness training. Lamps, chairs, anything I could lift I used. Anything that offered resistance I worked with. Two hours of gentle exercise and training made the morning pass with ease.

Lunch was served while I was again bathing, then the long stretch of afternoon would loom ominously ahead. I broke that down into spin fighting. Pretending to evade or to capture an enemy whilst dancing through the air in a spin. Something that I have perfected, but only with regular practice. I was determined that skill would not disappear.

Then I followed that impressive performance up with Nosferatin-fast Kendo and Weapon Dance moves to bring me into the late afternoon. Excitement permeated the shadows of the room when I danced my routine, even though I didn’t have a sword in my hands, the motions were fluid and beautiful. Captivating to those who appreciated such things.

Fairies love beauty in any shape or form.

Both of the afternoon activities always created that heightened sense of awareness from the shadows in the corners of my room. I knew without actually knowing, that Aliath had been made aware. And as I had established an impressive, captivating routine, and wrapped it up in a good dose of courage as though my gift was beribboned and begging to be revealed, Aliath was having trouble ignoring it, I was sure.

Afternoon activities were followed by a third bath. When you exercised as much as I was and had little else to pass the time, bathing becomes an essential detail of your day. Dinner would arrive while I was dressing and I’d draw my meal out to an hour, making the darkness of night finally win out over the day.

Surprisingly, although tired, I was not exhausted or nauseous by the end of ten days of this routine. As I should have been, because of the separation from my kindred. I couldn’t puzzle it out, I was definitely still joined to Michel, I felt the connection even though I couldn’t follow that connection to my other half. I should have been suffering. But I wasn’t, at least not yet.

Maybe it was the power boost the Ambrosia had given us at the joining ceremony. Maybe it was the way we were joined, the fact that our Light had been drawn from us, combined and then returned. Maybe it was something to do with the portals being closed, cutting off that effect before it could reach me. I didn’t have an answer, so I chose to just accept this helpful outcome. I’d worry about it if, or when, I was forced to face it.

For now, my patience and dedication to the task I had set myself eventually paid off. On the tenth day of captivity Sora fluttered through the door to my room in the middle of a Weapon Dance move. I knew she was there, but continued the ritual, until it was complete. Coming to stand before her with a low bow a full minute after she had entered the room. The door was still open behind her. My heartbeat tripled and thundered through my veins.

“Good afternoon, Princess.”

I had to swallow twice before I spoke. Over a week of not talking makes your voice a little weird.

“Good afternoon, Sora.”

“I will choose a dress for you,” she said holding my gaze with a placid one of her own. “Perhaps a quick wash would be advisable. His Majesty commands your company this evening at dinner.”

I forced myself not react, just nodded briefly and turned on my heel towards the bathroom. My hands shook as I drew a bath, my face was flush with excitement, I willed my body to relax. Used cool water to shock myself out of the heightened anticipated state I had fallen into. By the time I entered the dressing room, I had myself more or less under control. This was what I had wanted. A face to face with Aliath, a chance to negotiate a truce, improve my imprisonment. My ultimate goal, to win his trust and be considered an ally, not a captive at all.

And it had only taken ten days.

Ten days of solitude and boredom, interspersed with a self-inflicted vigorous routine designed to dazzle. I knew I was altogether too excited about this change of events. How could I not be?

I wasn’t sure if it was wishful thinking, but I was certain I needed Aliath if I was to survive in this world. Or escape it. I didn’t have anything to barter with, except myself. Be that my emotions for him to consume – ick – or what I could offer the Dökkálfa should the portals be opened again. And I was sure they would be. Michel would move Heaven and Earth to make that happen.

So, this dinner invitation was paramount to a portal opening up in my room back to Earth. A lot rode on its outcome.

Sora helped me dress in an intricate and beautiful outfit. This one was slightly more elaborate than the original dress I had clothed myself in that first day. Since then I had only worn underwear. This was the first dress I had worn since arriving ten days ago and it was exquisite. Black, but with tiny crystals stitched all over the tight fitting bodice and flowing skirt. The crystals caught the light in the room, making prisms of colours reflect off any available surface nearby when I moved. It was magical. I couldn’t determine an image from their positions, I think it was just a random pattern covering the entirety of the dress. The skirt was floor length, but failed to have the copious amounts of petticoats beneath it, making it seem more modern, in an ethereal way. The black fabric was light-weight, almost sheer, and swirled around my legs when I walked.

It fitted like a glove, as I suspected the rest of the clothes in the dressing room would. The Dökkálfa couldn’t have expected my arrival, but then they could have used magic to fill the closet as soon as I turned up in their Court. I’m not the sort to play dress-up, so I hadn’t tested that theory, but I was sure it was right.

Sora fussed with the buttons, I was vaguely relieved not to have to twist uncomfortably in on myself to achieve it, and then she attended my hair. I usually wear my hair down, I always have. It was what landed me in hot water with Queen Sofiq. Among other things. She was the only one who was permitted to wear her hair down when in her presence. I’d waltzed on into the throne room, ignoring Sora’s warnings, with my hair loose and down past my shoulders. When I left the throne room and the Dökkálfa Royal Court, my hair was half the length and brutally blunt. I was sure Aliath wouldn’t be as picky, but for some reason I allowed the fīfrildi fairy this small moment. Maybe it was an apology for last time, I don’t know, but she seemed to want to play with my hair. And truth be told, I was craving contact. Any contact would do.

The finished product was equally as elaborate as the dress, my hair curled delicately in thin strands to frame my face, but the bulk of it was swept up making my neck look longer than it usually did, accentuating my cheekbones and finishing off my appearance with an almighty full stop. Wow. Even I didn’t know I could look this good. I wondered briefly, what Michel would think if he saw me now. How hard would it be for him to ignore my neck? Michel liked me to be covered up, with just a hint of flesh showing here and there. It was the enticement, the possibility, the fact that his imagination could fill in the blanks, that did it for my beautiful vampire. I was thinking this outfit, my hairdo, everything about me right now, would feature in his fantasies for sure.

Somehow that gave me confidence and bolstered my courage, so much so, that I knew the instant I walked into the dining hall to meet Aliath, he would be mine. I am not a vampire, I don’t focus on prey. I hunt, sure, but I have never really considered a rogue to be my prey. I am capable of those thoughts, but it is not natural for me like it is for a vampire. Tonight though, the Fairy King was most definitely my prey.

I followed behind a silent Sora, with four hyrða guards as escorts, as she led the way. Tapestries hung on the walls, colourful and detailed. Depicting battles and landscapes, pretty women and men. A mixture of strength and serene beauty. The Dökkálfa might dress in black, but with their colourful skins and their vibrant interior decorations, they could not be confused with something Dark. There is a brightness to their lives. They are the Dark Court of Faerie, but they have as much Light as the Ljósálfar. And more honour than their lighter brethren could ever have. That was why I had aligned myself with Aliath. Even though at the time it appeared I had little choice, I wouldn’t have done it, if I hadn’t seen some good in the Dökkálfa Prince. I hadn’t considered an alliance with Lutin. It had simply never entered my mind as a possibility at all.

I tried to focus on those thoughts now. I needed to believe Aliath would not be like the former Queen. She had been cruel and sadistic, I couldn’t see my Grey Lord being as bad as that. But power can corrupt. I’ve seen it before. It’s like a festering wound, it eats into the psyche of the one in power, until very little of the man – or woman; think the Champion here – is left. I prayed Aliath was stronger than that. He was definitely more intelligent, so there was still hope.

We entered the room to an amazing chorus of chimes. The Fey chime when using power, but I couldn’t feel any magic on the air now. It was simply an announcement of my arrival. Beautiful, captivating, entirely uplifting and I soon realised, already trapping me in its enchanting grasp.

So much for no magic.

I stood swaying slightly in the centre of the room, aware that none of the multitude of black clad, colourful fairies present were moving at all to that compelling and intriguing sound. I wanted to dance, to throw my arms out and twirl. It would be so easy to spin here, to fly around the room on winged feet. I felt the thin material of my dress move; a swish, a flash of reflected light off the crystals…

…and then I was spinning.

Laughing and spinning in a dizzying flight around the room. My dress flew out behind me, sparkling, flapping in the breeze created by my movement. The chimes escalated higher and faster, so I made myself increase speed to match that musical peal. The room was a blur, the fairies all watching transfixed on the outer edge of the large expanse of space we were in. I was vaguely aware they had been positioned intentionally. Rimming the perimeter, leaving an open space free for me to perform.

And I was performing. Like a puppet on a string, Aliath was directing my moves from where he sat, vivid green eyes blazing, watching me with an intensity I had not witnessed on the Grey Lord before.

There was more space here than my chamber, more room for me to fly. I was impressive in my bedroom when I practised my spin, but here I was on fire. My joining to Michel shouldn’t have given me an obvious boost in speed. I already had gained so much when I matured at 25. It wasn’t my connection as such to a vampire that made me flash in such a fashion. It was all Nosferatin. But whatever my recent re-joining to Michel had created, it had given me a boost, I was sure. I was moving faster than I had ever moved before. The world a hazy blur of magical colours and wonderful sounds. My heart rate matching my speed, my breaths coming in such quick succession I was sure I would faint.

But the true beauty of it all, was I was aware.

I could see every single detail that flashed past me as though I was standing entirely still. I could tell exactly what Aliath was wearing; black trousers and shirt, undone at the top showing a little too much cream perfect skin at the base of his neck. How he looked; silver hair flowing out as though picked up by a breeze, framing his perfectly god-like face. Not to mention where he was sitting, what he was sipping in a tall stemmed glass, held in the long delicate fingers of one hand. I could even smell his scent. Ginger and caramel. Huh. I’d never really noticed his scent before, but I must have. Because although all the other fairies had their own individual scents, it was Aliath’s alone that I recognised now.

I could also tell how many fairies were here, how many were blue skinned, or red or green or yellow. How many weapons were visible, who held what and then how those armed fairies could potentially act. What threat they could pose to me. It was like my normal Nosferatin skills upon walking into a room, but magnified by fifty, a hundred even, and all of this done while I was twirling at a speed that rivalled a child’s spinning top.

It was mind boggling, but despite this revelation, I couldn’t stop spinning. As long as the fairies chimed I was theirs. I never did take nicely to being controlled and by now several minutes had passed, and I really felt Aliath had made his point.

I got it, he’s powerful and quite capable of making me jump through hoops. I had been displaying my courage, my abilities as a Nosferatin, in an attempt to trap him in my web whilst confined to my room. He was now shouting to the world that he was a bigger spider. A bigger threat.

I couldn’t stop spinning, I was subject to that enthralling chime, but part of spin fighting is landing a blow. The dance doesn’t stop when I come out of my spin. I am still dancing when I approach my target, just not in a twirling fashion anymore. Aliath wanted me to spin for him, he’d used the chimes to pull this reaction from within. I could have sung, done a tap dance, rollie-pollied my way across the marble floor – if that was what he wanted. But he had wanted to see me spin fighting. He had wanted to see that talent that can cause my enemies to quake in fear, displayed and controlled by him. The skill that I had exhibited so meticulously in my room, watched and coveted by him from the shadows. He didn’t realise, though, that part of the dance was the final blow. Stake meets chest. The performance wouldn’t finish until we were all coated in dust.

There’d be no dust now, but I could still land a blow. I didn’t want to attack him – how would that help my cause? Besides, I was unarmed. My bare hands alone would not be enough to kill the Fairy King, nor did I want them to be. Despite his show of prowess right now, I still had hopes Aliath wanted me as an ally. But I could use the magic of the chimes to finish my dance, to complete my spin. It just needed focus and determination – and conveniently, a hell of a lot of courage.

I blocked out all other sensations – not an easy task – and concentrated on the execution of the next dance motion. The final step to my spin fighting routine. Just like the rituals I’d been repeating in my chamber for the past week, spin fighting is ingrained within me. I could practically do it in my sleep. Or when under the magical influence of a fairy chime.

I waited for a variation in the chiming; an increase in speed, a hitch to the tone. It took forever. I couldn’t break my current spin without some sort of change to stimulate my actions. I was on a perpetual loop; same spin, same speed, same direction, until the chime dictated differently. I was at Aliath’s mercy, I’d known this, but not as much as I knew it right now, as I waited for a shift in that blasted, yet beautiful, chime.

Finally, it took on a resonant tone, slightly lower, slightly faster, an altogether most unexpected variance than before. It was perfect, I needed increased speed to break from the spin, like the force of an object flung out of orbit from the moon. But the lower tone, the deeper echo provided the exact combination required to direct my movements towards Aliath, but also to slow down enough not to rock him off his chair. It wouldn’t last long, a split second, a moment out of time, before the chiming made me spin again.

I spun out from my current trajectory and twirled through the space towards the Dökkálfa King. It happened so quickly, the guards didn’t have time to intercept. One second I was spinning and they were all delighting in my puppet-on-a-string actions, the next I was perched on his lap with my arms around his neck. The force of my arrival making him twist slightly in the seat where we both now sat.

The chimes stopped immediately. Silence reigned. Well, silence from the fairies, I was breathing too rapidly to be silent at all. Aliath sat stunned, his eyes flashing all manner of shades of green, his hands automatically resting on my hips in an effort to stop my forward motion. There was a gentleman under that fairy guise, he hadn’t wanted me to tip off the chair and land on my arse.

“Your Majesty,” I said breathlessly. “That was fun!” I smiled winningly at him, still frantically trying to catch my breath and slow my heart. I hadn’t realised how far my body had been pushed, spots were flashing in the corner of my eyes, accompanied by a haziness that could only mean one thing. I was about to black out from exhaustion.

Had Aliath planned to dance me until I fell at his feet? He’d almost succeeded. And now what would he do? I had interrupted his plans, I had fought back.

I took a deep breath in and held his gaze, the knowledge that I had bested the Dökkálfa King giving me courage. I grabbed that courage and wrapped it around me, let the feeling build inside me, swelling higher and higher, filling me up, washing over the sides of whatever shields emotions naturally have. I knew the instant Aliath felt it, the moment he could no longer ignore it. He closed his eyes, let out a breath through parted lips and pulled me closer.

I felt him feeding on me immediately. I recognised the sensations from when he had fed on the same emotion – my courage – before. I felt weightless, drifting serenely on a cloud, floating in a buffer of wellbeing and calmness. Aliath didn’t hurt when he fed, he set you free. I moulded against his chest, my body becoming compliant, relaxing further and further the more he fed from me.

I don’t know how much time passed, but not enough to make me pass out or fall asleep. I became aware of movement around us, the hyrða guards had formed an impenetrable wall. Not to protect Aliath from me, strangely enough. But to shield him, while he fed, from the prying eyes of the rest of the Dökkálfa Royal Court. I hadn’t expected that. The Ljósálfar had been very open in their enjoyments. Sharing Light, considered an intimate and sacred thing, was done without shyness. Much of how they interacted intimately was done on display for all to see. The Dökkálfa obviously did not behave in the same fashion as their fairy cousins. Another point in their favour as far as I was concerned. Even if Michel had helped to lower my walls and encouraged me to participate in public shows of affection more now than ever before, I was still a very private person, when it came to things that made me blush.

And the way Aliath held me right now was making me blush. He was no longer feeding, but his sated look and steel hold around my waist, made me realise he had gained more than just a full belly from feeding off my courage. He wasn’t ready to release me, which was a good and a bad thing. I would have preferred a little distance, entirely too uncomfortable for my liking right now. But, if he kept me close, then maybe he wouldn’t punish me for my transgressions today. And lets face it, I had just challenged the new Dökkálfa King. How could he not use me as an example to the rest of his Court?

But what choice did I have? Spin until I passed out? I’m not that kind of girl. I’m Nosferatin. I fight back when cornered. I may have won the first round, getting Aliath to let me out of my cell. But right now, I was fairly sure I had just given up any ground I had gained. I had acted as Aliath would have expected, it may have caught him off guard, but it wasn’t something I wouldn’t normally have done.

Had he predicted I would make this kind of mistake? Had I just walked right into his trap?

He’d let me know he was the bigger spider, that he had the bigger web. I didn’t truly believe him then. With hindsight, I was forced to change my opinion of that now.

 It’s guest post time!

I’m thrilled to be running a fantasy author post swap today with Tara Maya, author of the YA Paranormal Romance Series:  The Unfinished Song.

This fantastic fantasy series has five books already released, with a further seven planned. So, if you’re into a little epic fantasy, and like your myths, fairytales and legends, then check out book one in this popular Young Adult Fantasy Series. And…. guess what? It’s free!

From Tara’s website: “The Unfinished Song is an epic faery tale… epic fantasy rewoven from fairytales, set in Faearth, a  primeval world of magic where Faeries still rove the world. It is one story, split into twelve novels.”

Description: 

DEADLY INITIATION

A DETERMINED GIRL…

Dindi can’t do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi’s clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

AN EXILED WARRIOR…

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don’t kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father’s wars and his mother’s curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her… assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

And here’s a little sneak peek into Initiate:

Blue-skinned rusalki grappled Dindi under the churning surface of the river. She could feel their claws dig into her arms. Their riverweed-like hair entangled her legs when she tried to kick back to the surface. She only managed to gulp a few breaths of air before they pulled her under again.

She hadn’t appreciated how fast and deep the river was. On her second gasp for air, she saw that the current was already dragging her out of sight of the screaming girls on the bank. A whirlpool of froth and fae roiled between two large rocks in the middle of the river. The rusalka and her sisters tugged Dindi toward it. Other water fae joined the rusalki. Long snouted pookas, turtle-like kappas and hairy-armed gwyllions all swam around her, leading her to the whirlpool, where even more fae swirled in the whitewater.

“Join our circle, Dindi!” the fae voices gurgled under the water. “Dance with us forever!”

“No!” She kicked and swam and stole another gasp for air before they snagged her again. There were so many of them now, all pulling her down, all singing to the tune of the rushing river. She tried to shout, “Dispel!” but swallowed water instead. Her head hit a rock, disorienting her. She sank, this time sure she wouldn’t be coming up again.

“Dispel!” It was a man’s voice.

Strong arms encircled her and lifted her until her arms and head broke the surface. Her rescuer swam with her toward the shore. He overpowered the current, he shrugged aside the hands of the water faeries stroking his hair and arms. When he reached the shallows, he scooped Dindi into his arms and carried her the rest of the way to the grassy bank. He set her down gently.

She coughed out some water while he supported her back.

“Better?” he asked.

She nodded. He was young–only a few years older than she. The aura of confidence and competence he radiated made him seem older. Without knowing quite why, she was certain he was a Tavaedi.

“Good.” He had a gorgeous smile. A wisp of his dark bangs dangled over one eye. He brushed his dripping hair back over his head.

Dindi’s hand touched skin–he was not wearing any shirt. Both of them were sopping wet. On him, that meant trickles of water coursed over a bedrock of muscle. As for her, the thin white wrap clung transparently to her body like a wet leaf. She blushed.

“It might have been easier to swim if you had let go of that,” he teased. He touched her hand, which was closed around something. “What were you holding onto so tightly that it mattered more than drowning?”

LINKS:

Tara’s blog 

Tara’s Twitter 

The Unfinished Song on Facebook

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

iTunes

Smashwords

Initiate is free everywhere except on Barnes and Noble (where it’s $0.99). You can download a free .epub version via Smashwords.




Cleaning out my office recently and I came across eight copies of Kindred World books with earlier edition covers on them. Rather than box them up in a carton and hide them away for the rest of their foreseeable lives, I decided to run a competition and give them all away. See, even though these books have first edition covers on them, they still have the same exciting, heart-palpitating, fast paced, adventurous, sexy, mysterious and hot Paranormal Romance story in them as those books on sale today!

If you’d like to win these eight awesome paperbacks then click on the link below…

Enter To Win 8 Kindred World Paperback Books

This giveaway includes the first seven books in the Kindred Series as well as the first book in the spin-off series: Mixed Blessing Mystery.

This includes, (in chronological reading order for the Kindred World):

  • Kindred (Kindred, #1)
  • Blood Life Seeker (Kindred, #2)
  • Forbidden Drink (Kindred, #3)
  • Giver Of Light (Kindred, #4)
  • Dancing Dragon (Kindred, #5)
  • Shadow’s Light (Kindred, #6)
  • Mixed Blessing (Mixed Blessing Mystery, #1)
  • Entwined With The Dark (Kindred, #7)

The winner of this giveaway will have just enough time to receive the books before the next release; the final instalment in the Kindred Series: Kiss Of The Dragon. The competition goes until 4th September 2013, with book eight in the Kindred Series due for release in September/October. So, plenty of time to collect up to the final book in readiness for the much anticipated conclusion to Lucinda and Michel’s story.

Here’s what people are saying about the Kindred & Mixed Blessing Mystery Series:

“I was excited through every page, no skimming or reading fast through this one. Every page had something new and exciting. Of course I adored the main characters, but the secondary characters that came and went, or stayed, were all fantastic and lively. The world Nicola Claire has created in Auckland, New Zealand is really wonderful.”

Liz @ Fictional Candy

“This is the best vampire book I’ve read in a long time and If you like the paranormal world of vampires, shape shifters, ghouls and magic this book is a must read! The writing was seamless and the character development was outstanding.”

Leslie @ The Indie Bookshelf

“Kindred completely stands on its own in originality… This book was action packed from the first page. I was immediately drawn in, and Nicola Claire has a unique way of telling a story.”

Kathy @ Romantic Reading Escapes

“The writing flowed nicely and kept me wanting more. I found myself staying up late to read. When I finished the book, it remained with me. I would find myself daydreaming about the characters and the Kindred world. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series titled, Blood Life Seeker. I think I’ve located my new favorite series!”

April @ My Paranormal Book Review

Good Luck!

Auckland Waterfront by =imladris517 www.deviantart.com

Having just spent four days in the City Of Sails, I couldn’t help but think you might like to see a little of the city that inspires my books. I didn’t grow up in Auckland, like my husband did, I became an Auckland convert in my late twenties, when I moved there from up North to work for St John Ambulance. I soon fell in love with the city, its people and the vibrant lifestyle it exudes. There is no better place in my mind to set a romance story in.

Auckland Harbour Bridge HDR by ~MisterDedication www.deviantart.com

While surfing for inspirational images online this morning, I came across a fantastic artist who encapsulates My Auckland in his beautiful images.

Moody, striking, evocative and sensual, MisterDedication has taken a series of snapshots that bring back so many memories of my time in Auckland City.

So, along with several of his photos I have started a Pinterest Board with images of Auckland City for you all to see exactly what I do when I write a story set in the City Of Sails. I can’t fit them all on this post, so to see the rest of the stunning pictures I found, check out the Board!

Downtown Auckland HDR by ~MisterDedication www.deviantart.com

From the streets and parks, to the buildings and skyline, Auckland to me is a young city full of life and excitement, beauty in layers, with a multicultural make-up.

I love the diversity and even though Auckland City itself is young, there is a timeless quality to its beauty. Underscored by the volcanic field it rests on, some 50 volcanoes within a twenty kilometre radius of the city centre.

Auckland is hot!

Auckland by ggoodfellow www.trekearth.com

Because I worked in the city centre, Pitt Street in fact, for several years, I got to know my way around fairly well.

As a Paramedic, I spent my days, and the busy, chaotic nights, on the streets of the CBD. Karanghape Road, (or K Road as the locals call it) was a vibrant, seething mass of partying people. Everyone just out to have some fun, enjoy the night-life and celebrate living in a metropolitan city in the Antipodes.

My Kind Of Water by Stewart Baird Photography www.stewartbaird.com

Queen Street and Ponsonby Road, Quay and Customs Streets, as well as the smaller Fort Street, Vulcan Lane and the likes, are all imprinted in my memories. An even today when I visit, it all comes crashing back through my mind.

And I still love it.

But there’s more to Auckland than the high rise buildings, than the Sky Tower and the Harbour Bridge. There’s the beaches within short driving distance. The parks, still farmed in the case of Cornwall Park, in the middle of suburban streets. There’s the nature walks and adventure parks. There’s everything you could want in life, and in the fictional telling of a story.

Britomart Trainstation by ~MisterDedication www.deviantart.com

So, I choose Auckland City for my romance novels, because Auckland to me is pure romance… of the mind, heart and soul. And because I know it, I’ve lived it, and I love it.

Take a look at my Auckland City, New Zealand – An Inspirational Setting For Great Romance! Pinterest Board. Check out the many photos that caught my eye and remind me of My Auckland. And see what I mean, when I say, the City Of Sails is a great setting for a romance novel.

And don’t forget, if you want to see more scenes from my books, including models/actors I’ve picked for my characters, to get a little more insight into my stories, then take a quick peek at all of my Pinterest Boards. There’s one for each book I’ve written, as follows:

 Take care!

Nicola

I’m over at Sofia Grey’s website today for a sizzling July Fever Post all about Fever-Filled Dreams.

Come along and make a comment to go into the draw to win e-copies of books 1 & 2 in the Sweet Seduction Series. Plus, a weekly draw of all sorts of goodies!

Sweet Seduction Sacrifice & Sweet Seduction Serenade have received some great reviews on Amazon. And now book three has joined the line-up, Sweet Seduction Shadow. Find out what people are saying about this new hot Romantic Suspense Series.

  • Receive New Book Release Notifications Via Email

  • Archived Posts

  • Syndication