A princess expected to uphold honor and tradition, a man dishonored and shunned by the very society she rules. Their passion may be hot, their will strong, but how can she fall for the man who might be trying to kill her?
When her life is threatened by mysterious events only she can see, Princess Fen has more to worry about than finding a husband. Too bad her parents don’t feel the same way. Desperate to keep her from leaving the planet like her sister, they decide to play matchmaker, inviting wealthy, noble suitors to the palace.
But it’s not a rich suitor that catches her eye, it’s the commoner, Aaron Piers—a man who’s past is clouded with dishonor, a man without family, a man she could never consider marrying. Though her desire for him burns hot, their relationship can never be. Besides, he might just be the one trying to kill her.
Thin trails of smoke curled in the air, surrounding the offering of wine and bread before disappearing along the latticework above the low altar. Darkness shadowed the room, hiding the lone figure that kneeled in meditative prayer, rocking back and forth in desperation as passion burned inside him, deep, haunting, all-consuming.
The dark silk of his robes billowed into a glossy pool around his feet and fell past his hands to cover them completely. The material swam around him, and he looked like a child in his father’s clothing. Like most of the men on his planet, he wore his hair long, but he wasn’t like the other men, not really. He was different, a part of them, but yet was unaccepted. The man rocked faster, his whispered chants growing with each anxious twitch of his body.
Soon. He’d see her again soon.
“Make her burn for me, as I burn for her. Make her burn for me. I beg of you, honored ancestors. Bring me her heart. Make it burn.”
Imperial Palace of the Zhang Dynasty, Honorable City, Muntong Territory, Planet of Lintian
“Qing bang-zhu wo!” Princess Zhang Fen yelled in fervent terror, as she tried not to inhale the thick black smoke that filled the air of her bedchamber. Fire danced in spiraling patterns all around her. She tried to escape through her front door, which led to the hall and front foyer of the building that housed the royal living quarters. Flames cut her off, engulfing the walls as they nearly seared her skin with the intensity of their heat.
“Please, help me. Anyone!” She screamed again, but it did no good. No one came to rescue her. The royal quarters was only one building out of a great many that made up the imperial palace of Honorable City. How could no one hear her calls for help? Where were her brothers who shared the building with her? Had the fire already consumed them?
A chill racked over her spine, causing a brief shiver amidst the fiery temperature. The ghostly presence of her ancestors surrounded her, for whom else could it be? Ancestors showed themselves to those they wished to guide, and she was in desperate need. Fen looked for their transparent forms, hoping they were there to lead her out of harm’s way. She couldn’t see them through the smoke.
“Grandmother? Are you here?” she whispered, knowing her great-grandmother, Zhang An, would show herself if she was. Since her death, An had been residing in the sacred room hidden within the walls of the Hall of Infinite Wisdom.
Fen was in good standing with the ancestors. She always left offerings, especially for An who loved wine. Ever since Fen’s mother, the Empress, had stopped leaving the drink for the old spirit, Fen had snuck wine into the Sacred Chamber.
The Empress was upset with An because the spirit hadn’t been forthcoming when she’d predicted Princess Mei’s future. Everyone thought Fen’s sister would marry Prince Song Lok, whose family ruled the only other dynasty on the planet of Lintian. Instead, Mei wed a space captain and was flying around the high skies, far away from her palace home. She’d just given birth to a son, the first royal grandchild. The Empress missed her youngest daughter dearly and resented not having an active hand in raising the boy.
“Grandmother An, if you get me out of this, I promise to leave you twice as much wine tonight.” Fen watched the smoke for any sign that she was heard. Still there was no answer. Out of all her ancestors, An meddled in their lives the most.
Then, where was she? What better time to ‘meddle’?
Right now, Fen would take the help of any of the spirits who resided within the palace. They could be anywhere at anytime but usually avoided private areas like bedrooms. Another chill washed over her, and she knew a spirit was close, but she couldn’t see who it was. Why weren’t they helping her escape? Or was there no escaping these flames? Were they waiting for her to join them in death?
“I’m not ready. I’m not ready,” Fen said, tears welling in her eyes. Part of her had clung to the hope of liberation, had believed so fully that she’d be saved that she didn’t consider the possibility of getting hurt. But, as no one came and the flames grew, she wasn’t as confident. “Qing, please, I’m not ready. I’m not ready to die!”
The dark silk on her bed melted and curled with the heat, matching the melting silk tapestries that burned along her walls. Her gaze flew to the thin doorways separating the chambers of her room. Both doors had burned, revealing the rooms beyond. Her living space and her decontaminator room were also on fire.
“Grandfather Manchu?” she asked, hoping to appeal to Zhang An’s son. The two were often at odds, but if one wasn’t going to help her then maybe the other spirit would. The building was the private quarters to the royal siblings, and she prayed her brothers had gotten out safely and would find a way to rescue her. “I beg you, Manchu, help me. Protect me. Protect my family.”
Wood crackled as she once more tried to reach the thick bedroom door that would lead to the outside hall and to safety. A piece of the door fell away, and she saw the hall on the other side. It looked fresh and clean, unlike her bedroom. Smoke charred the gold inlay on the carved wood, and she was forced to her knees as it became harder to breathe. Her tears dried before they could trail down her hot cheeks, as all moisture was sapped from the air. A large beam fell from the ceiling, and she screamed, scrambling back to curl into a ball. There was nowhere to go.
“Qing, help!” Fen closed her eyes tight, trying to gain the courage to push through the flames toward safety. “Qing, I don’t want to die like this!”
A shout followed by the crash of her door sounded over her, propelling her into action. Finally, she was saved! Before opening her eyes, she stood. “I’m here….”
Fen froze, her voice dying in her throat as the heat instantly left her skin. The flames were gone and the room stood exactly as it had before the fire started--from the wrinkled covers on her bed where she’d been sleeping to the delicate butterfly and peony patterns on her rugs. Coughing, a small puff of smoke left her lips, the only evidence as to what had happened moments before. She panted for breath, still choked from the heat, as she looked around in shock. Embroidered blue silk again hung over her walls and lay across her bed. The thin doors were shut, completely unharmed as they hid the living area and decontaminator from view.
Shaking, she looked at the main door in confusion. Its gold inlay shone like it had before she went to bed, the thick wood unmarred. Dark blue eyes, the shade of her favorite color, met hers over the short distance. They belonged to the man waiting in the entryway, his body tense as if for battle.
“Princess?” the man repeated, his deep tone softer this time. The rich, low sound of his voice rolled over her like cooling water to the heated skin.
Fen was too stunned to answer. A new fire sprung to life inside her stomach, curling with a gentle warmth. What had happened to the flames in her bedchamber? What magic did this man have that could stop fire and make it as if it had never happened? Her limbs went numb as she looked at his handsome face. A rush of gratitude came over her, even though there was no longer any fire to be rescued from. Part of her wanted to run to him, throw her arms around him in thanks for stopping the flames, to sprinkle grateful kisses on his cheeks and bless him for what he’d done. But there was more than gratitude that hit her when she looked at him. It was an improper feeling, a feeling of attraction and interest, a curling of awareness that here stood a man alone with her in her bedchambers where no others were allowed. The rule was not one of the palace, but her own. Men only brought complication, and she did not wish to be gossiped about by the palace servants.
“If you have no need of my services, princess, please excuse me.” The man bowed politely and moved to pull the door shut. She gaped, wide-eyed at him, not wanting him to go but not knowing what to say to make him stay. “Duibuqi. Excuse me, princess, I did not mean to intrude.”
“Wait,” Fen demanded just before the door shut completely, finally compelled to speak.
The man stopped, and he opened the door once more, standing at rigid attention. His eyes did not meet hers again and she finally felt as if she could breathe in his presence. She studied him, feeling a pull toward him. Had she seen him somewhere before? Did she know him? He wasn’t dressed as a palace guard, nor was he dressed as a noble. The plain black of his clothing was oddly devoid of any decoration, though it was spun from silk and had the traditional Mandarin collar and frog buttons.
Fen continued to study him, her mind wrapping completely around the mystery. His brown hair was long, pulled into a traditional topknot. Though there was a hint of Lintianese in his strong features, but his eyes were not the eyes of her people, his cheekbones were too prominent and his lips curved in such a way as to make them unfamiliar. Whoever this man was, she’d guess he was only half Lintianese by birth. His pronunciation of the language was flawless, indicating that he’d been raised in their ways or had access to a stellar language upload program.
He was taller than most men Fen had been around, though not so tall as Mei’s space captain husband who practically towered over her. Captain Jarek of the Var also happened to be a foreign, cat shifting prince.
“Who are you?” she asked the handsome stranger, not moving.
“Aaron,” he answered. His gaze focused on her feet. Fen resisted the urge to hide her toes from view. They tingled with just a stare from him.
“Aaron?” she repeated, rolling the foreign name around in her mouth. “What is your family name? Or is that your family name?”
“Piers.” The answer was clipped.
“How did you get in here, Piers Aaron?” Fen asked.
“Forgive my intrusion, princess, I heard you scream for help as I walked by and thought you needed rescuing.” His hands gripped in light fists at his side. They were strong, callused hands, the hands of a worker. He glanced around the room, refusing to look directly at her. “I see now you were merely playacting. Forgive my mistake. Duibuqi, excuse me.”
Fen tensed. There was something in his tone that bothered her. It took her a moment to realize it was disdain, mixed with a touch of pity. He thought she was crazy, screaming for help when there was nothing to be rescued from. So much for the theory that this man had magic. Could she really blame his reproach? All evidence of her dire situation had disappeared, making it appear as if she’d been screaming like a madwoman for no reason. Fen hardly needed rescuing from her bedclothes.
The man was so serious, so rigid, as he waited for her to dismiss him that she couldn’t help but tease him in the hopes of putting him at ease. “Do you know there is a penalty for wandering about outside the royal chambers, even if you were waiting to save me from myself?”
Aaron glanced up at her words, and she tried to smile to show she was joking, but the look in his dark eyes stopped her cold. What she could only describe as resentment burned within his gaze. Out of all the Zhang children, Fen was most gifted with charm. It was more than the natural ability to put people at ease, it was a power bestowed upon her at birth by their sacred Jade Phoenix. When she spoke, she could induce a person to tell the truth or show their true emotions. And, to an extent, she could control them by playing their emotions against them with the power of persuasion. It was a great responsibility, one Fen never used for ill intent.
Her powers being as they were, she knew she shouldn’t have been surprised to see the raw emotion in the man’s eyes. To anyone else, he would appear stoic and calm, but she saw his resentment, his borderline anger and hate that bubbled just beneath the surface. Did he hate her? Resent her? Her family? The palace? It was hard to say without knowing who he was or why he was within the walls of the Honorable City. The sudden impact of his hidden emotions made her uneasy.
“I have the Emperor’s permission to stay in Peng You Hall.” Aaron lifted his jaw, the gesture one of pride. Then, as if catching himself, he deliberately lowered his eyes once more. Pride was not something she saw too often in commoners, at least not when they knew she was there.
“You’re a guest?” she asked in surprise.
Aaron nodded once. Fen wasn’t sure if she should believe him. Maybe he trespassed on palace grounds. A thief? Instantly she dismissed the thought. A thief wouldn’t have saved her. But, then who? Being one of the four unmarried royal children still residing at the palace, she was expected to welcome any of their guests. Although, at fifty-one years of age, she hardly considered herself a child, even if she did look exactly as she had thirty years ago.
“Here?” she persisted. “You’re a guest here in the palace?”
He said again, “I have the Emperor’s permission to stay in Peng You Hall.”
Fen weakly nodded, completely aware that she sounded like an imbecile as she forced her poor rescuer to repeat himself as if she were a child. It was hard to gather her thoughts so soon after the strange fire. The pull of his nearness wasn’t helping her concentrate--though to look at him the pull was entirely one-sided.
“If you have no need of me, princess, I’ll take my leave of you.” Aaron glanced up, again showing her the dark blue of his gaze. Fen nodded weakly at him in dismissal. He pulled the door shut behind him and left without further comment.
For a long, silent moment, she stared after him, looking at the gold inlay on the door without really seeing it. Suddenly, as she remembered the fire that had awoke her from her dreams, she looked down, feeling her warm, smooth arms. Finding her flesh unharmed, she sprung into action. Fen grabbed her robe off a nearby chair. As she ran, she slipped it over her shoulders, hurrying to make sure none of her siblings were harmed by the strange disappearing inferno.
The flames hadn’t been a dream. They couldn’t have been. They had felt so real.
To celebrate the publication of LORD SIN, Kalen Hughes is giving away a period piece of jewelry! It's a paste lace pin, c. 1800, such as might have been worn by the heroine of LORD SIN to hold her fichu in place.
This tiny pin is made up of clear pastes surrounding a larger teal paste (paste was a very popular "stone" for Georgian jewelry, and was not meant to fool people into thinking it was a precious or semiprecious stone the way a modern cubic zirconia is). The clasp works, and it's very wearable.
All you have to do to be eligible for the drawing is join her quarterly mailing list before LORD SIN hits the shelves (1 May 2007).
Winners of Book Dedications by M&M’s & The Erotic Novel Title Challenge
Thank you so much for playing along with us! We love the podcast questions you've all posted and emailed to us. Please be sure to keep making suggestions for topics and emailing/posting questions you'd like us to answer. We'll be pulling winners at random from those who do and awarding PDF downloads, signed bookmarks and whatever else strikes our fancy. Also, those of you who have emailed/posted your questions/topics for us, don't worry, you're still entered to win other prizes as well! Thanks for playing!
Drum roll please….
Winners of book dedications are…
Robin Snodgrass for a Mandy M. Roth book (TBA)
Anicz for a Michelle M. Pillow book (TBA)
If either of you have any special way you'd like your named listed (full name, first name, nickname) please email us and let us know! CONGRATS!
*disclaimer from contest post*
Books may appear in both ebook and print.
UPDATE: You can option to just have your first name in the dedication or a nickname. We'll put it in as you give it to us, so no worries if you're a closet reader ;) Authors are welcome to enter, you have just as good a chance as everyone else to win
Contest is open to those 18 years and older. Winner will be randomly drawn from names of entrants.
FROM JENNA-- I have created a tri-fold brochure for Secrets in the Shadows. Inside that brochure is an excerpt from the book and instructions for finding my Secrets Quiz question. Find the Secrets Quiz and answer the question correctly, and you'll be entered in a drawing to win a $50 gift certificate to the bookstore of your choice. Please note that for logistical reasons, this bookstore must be located in the US and accept phone or Internet gift certificate orders.
Big news! Rendezvous, The Romance Bookstore, in Melbourne, Australia has donated a new prize! The first prize winner will receive their choice of a $100 (Australian) voucher for use at Rendezvous, or the $50 gift certificate announced above. Rendezvous has an amazing selection of books--and carries books printed in the U.S. as soon as those books are released--and will ship anywhere in the world. The second prize winner will receive the remaining prize.
I will be sending brochures to upcoming writers' conferences and will be including them in mailings to bookstores. For those of you coming to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, I will also have brochures available there. In addition, if you send me a self-addressed stamped envelope, I will mail you a brochure. For non-US residents, you would need to send a self-addressed envelope and IRCs. Send your self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Jenna Black P.O. Box 5071 Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5001
The winner will be announced on May 15, 2007. All entries must be received by midnight EDT May 14, 2007.
Just wanted to stop by and let everyone know I have a new interview up at Fallen Angels. They're always a bunch of fun ladies to be around and Serena, who did the interview, is great! Hey, she let me get away talking about The Three Amigos, LOL. Gotta love that!
Just when you thought you were caught up, right? It seems I took off more than I could chew over the holidays and running a business outside of writing, and more deadlines and conference coming up....I finally have collapsed a little under the weight. Those of you who know me, know that I like carrying my own weight on projects and hate when I can't do it all.
Do you think if I signed a wavier, those science guys would let me have my own clone? Just so the other clone would know I was the one in charge! LMAO
GRRR I HATE TIME CONSTRAINTS!
I'm actually really sad to say that I had to bow out of the Lust Bites Blog ran by my fellow, very talented Virgin Books authors. They're a great bunch of ladies and I wish I had two of me so I could continue to play there. I was invited to guest blog, which I hope to have time to do in the future. So please, if you get a chance, stop by and check them out.
Join us tomorrow for the Raven Reader Bash! Listed below are just some of the authors expected to join us for a day filled of excerpts and prizes! Come Post to Win!! (authors are welcome to sign up-see end of this email for link to info)
PRINT BOOK NOW FOR SALE! Online and at Fave Bookstores!
Kat Matthews is in love…with her art. As a photographer, her greatest desire is to one day create a photo so potent that it will stand the test of time, the kind of picture that is looked at for centuries and remembered. If she can accomplish that, she will be content. While vacationing with her mother in Vale, Colorado, she meets an eccentric, rich couple who have a bizarre proposition. They want to hire her to date their son. And not just date him, but train him how to date so he'll continue doing so afterward. As payment, they dangle a once in a lifetime opportunity in front of Kat - the chance to have her photographs seen by the owner of the most prestigious are gallery in New York. Their terms should be simple—teaching their reclusive son how to date without him finding out. Dr Vincent Richmond unwittingly holds the key to her dreams in his hands...if only he’d notice she exists.
The door had said this was a laboratory, but Kat found the room odd for a lab, though the old brown tables and the old library-like atmosphere was probably suited to a guy who studied word history. Cluttered along the edge of the long counter, there were beakers, microscopes, an array of instruments from tweezers to little slides and some sort of machine that looked like it belonged in a science laboratory, but Kat had no idea what it did. She’d failed science in high school and never went to college. There’d been no point. Ever since she was little, she wanted to be a photographer. She deduced easily that the drawers had to be filled with old texts and maybe the equipment was used for carbon dating or whatever it was these types of men did.
‘I don’t work for you.’ Kat set her camera bag on the table. Thinking to catch movement on the floor, she glanced down. It was nothing.
‘Sorry, what was that?’
‘I don’t work for you,’ Kat repeated.
Vincent stopped, standing very still as if it took him a moment to process what she said. Slowly, he turned. ‘You can’t quit on me. I’ve had too many quit on me this year.’
He held up his hands and came back to where she waited by the door. As if seeing her for the first time, he blinked, his eyes roaming over her face and clothes. ‘Ah, wow, you’re…’
Kat waited. Beautiful? Pretty? Sexy? Dateable? This was more like the reaction she was used to from men.
‘…ah, different,’ Vincent said, not exactly in pleasure. He frowned at the pink in her hair. ‘Did that happen here? Did you have a chemical spill? I hope you filled out the proper paperwork. I’m not sure what I have around here that would cause such a reaction in human hair, but is why you’re quitting?’
Kat tensed. Different? She was different? This nut job was one to talk. He didn’t even know his own assistant’s name or what she looked like.
‘Here,’ he reached for his wallet. ‘I’ll pay to get your hair fixed, only don’t quit. Please. I’m so close to a breakthrough, I can feel it. I’ve got too much going on right now and the college won’t send me another assistant until the fall semester.’
‘I coloured my hair like this on purpose,’ she said, dryly.
This is the Raven Vampire Nightclub podcast I host with Mandy M Roth. We have a lot of fun, talk about everything and a whole lot of nothing. We'd love it if you check it out and tell us what you think. We also have a contest going (scroll down this blog) where you tell us what you want us to talk about and you're entered for a chance to win your name in a book dedication (first name only and nicknames okay!)
The only rule is that it needs to be on a paranormal subject and about 200-1000 words long. It can be history, personal experiences, random thoughts, cool trivia, ect... We get several hits throughout the week, with the number continuing to grow.
NOT SO BASICALLY:
Authors, Fans and Paranormal Experts welcome to blog!
Guest Blogs are posted every Monday at the Raven Vampire Nightclub Blog on what is called "Manic Monday with Michelle and Mandy". If you would like to have your article included, please follow the submission guidelines below. Mandy and Michelle reserve the right to decline any blog topic without explanation (but don't let that scare you, we're not meanies).
HOW TO GET A GUEST SPOT!
1. Subject MUST be on the PARANORMAL! Topics can be anything paranormal or fantasy--from Real Life to myths, history or just your thoughts on a subject. Author byline with links will be included and we ask that you stop by to comment when your blog goes live. Also, feel free to advertise your blog with us. If you would like the above graphic to use, email us.
2. Articles can be anywhere from 200-1000 words.
3. No fan fiction or short stories. No poetry. If you would like to post a paranormal short story or poem, please contact us for special arrangements. These will be very selective and not be done on guest blogger days.
4. First come, First serve The order your blog will be posted is in the order we receive the completed, ready to go blog entry. The only exception is if the topic you are writing about was recently done, or if you have recently done a blog and there are others who haven't waiting for a chance. We reserve the right to post them as we see fit. Email notifications will be send out when your blog posts, not before. 5. We DO NOT reserve dates Please don't ask. We're too busy and we will forget.
6. Yes, you can do it more than once. At this time there is no limit.
7. TO SUBMIT
Send email to Michelle - enchant @ cox.net or michelle_pillow @ yahoo.com (no spaces)
(((please send to me, Mandy's busy right now editing podcasts and I want to feel like I'm pulling my weight, lol)))
Subject - Raven Guest Blog
Body of Email- Your blog article READY TO GO, including the byline at the end and the link titles and links you want added to the blog clearly marked.
We DO NOT edit, so make sure it's how you want it.
New guest blogger post is up! Join Gia as she talks about witches and burning at the stake. Reading this, I can't help but think of all the things I do that would get me burned for witchcraft back in the day. LOL, Or worse yet MANDY!!!
*ducking from flying mousepad* At least she threw something soft this... OUCH!! Nevermind!
We've now done our first podcast (thanks to Mandy for knowing all about it and making it work). We plan on many more to come. We being myself and Mandy Roth, my partner in "crime". So, take a listen, and let us know what you think. Also, check out the contest below this post, for a chance to give us a topic you'd like us to discuss and to win your name in a book dedication! (nicknames okay too)
Oh, yeah, now you have to listen to us too!
Before download, be sure you have your speakers turned on and if you're using headsets, be sure they aren't the kind with one ear piece only.
Email us to see what spots are open and please have a topic to recommend for your time. Also, you will need to have SKYPE installed on your computer along with a decent microphone. Skype is a free program.
By agreeing to be a guest you give us permission to record you, and post for public as we see fit.
Mandy and Michelle are currently setting up to begin Raven Podcasts. Yeah, you have to listen to us now too! LOL
Anyway, in honor of the setting up process, we're holding a contest. Submit reader questions or topics we can use in our podcasts that you'd like to hear us talk about and be entered for a chance to win your name in a book dedication! There will be two winners, one in a Michelle book and one in a Mandy book (of our choice)
Contest is open to those 18 years and older. Winner will be randomly drawn from names of entrants.
To enter: Simply post your topic as a comment to this post. You can enter more than once. More than one winner may be drawn for the same dedication if there are several entries.
Books may appear in both ebook and print. By entering the contest you are agreeing to 1. have your name in the dedication and related material whether print or electronic--for example on my and the publisher website or in a podcast. 2. allow Mandy and Michelle to use your topic in a Raven podcast, in whole or in part, as they see fit. No other compensation will be given.
JAN WINNERS!! 1. Jan - Winner $25 Amazon.com Gift Certificate 2. Amy Smith - Winner Choice PDF -- One from Mandy's backlist of ebooks, One from Michelle's backlist of ebooks
Please email us off list to claim your prizes. EMAIL: michelle_pillow (at) yahoo.com
Since everyone seemed to have a fun time with this contest, we're keeping it going! New winners will be drawn next month. Remember, you don't have to do a fan book video to be a part of it! So have fun creating!
I just saw the ARC I'll be signing and giving away at RT this year. It's of my fall 2007 release with Virgin Books, Along for the Ride.
So, if you're going to the convention, visit my private signing in Club RT Friday, April 27th, 11:30-12:00 AM for your autographed copy (first come, first serve! so come early!)
If you're not going to the convention, but are in the Houston area, you can come to the Book Fair on Saturday where I will be signing many of my print titles. (of you can bring yours from home and I'll be happy to autograph them for you!)
Everyone's welcome to stop by and comment, don't be shy! I tend to keep it relaxed around here.
Want to hear me blog about a topic? Have an idea for a blog theme day? Want your blog on my blogroll? Want to contemplate the different shades of red toenail polish? Feel free to email! firstname.lastname@example.org
***Disclaimer, any book (outside of my own books/titles), music, movie, etc. recommendations I make on my web/blog are purely recommendations. I make no money if you buy them. I simply talk about things I like. Thank you.***