Friday, July 28, 2017

Excerpt! Pride, The Abcynians Book II

TGIF! Because it's Friday, how about an excerpt for Pride, The Abcynians Book II? ICYMI, Pride is my latest indie release. Admittedly, it'd been published originally with Ellora's Cave/Cerridwen Press which evolved into EC Blush. As the publisher has closed, I was fortunate to obtain the rights and this book is the second in The Abcynians series. Persuasion is already available at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Scribd, and B&N for Nook! Both books, as the remaining in the series and those to come as The Abcynians world shifts across the Atlantic after the 4th book, are set at affordable prices! It's my hope that if you haven't read the previous incarnation of this series known as the Panthera, that you'll give The Abcynians a chance!  

As with Persuasion, Pride can be found at Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks and Scribd! Copy and paste the following links to find your copy today! Happy Friday!

Also, since it's Friday, here's the blurb and excerpt from the first chapter of Pride! Meet Rhiannon, a mysterious woman whose memory is slowly, dangerously returning.
They have lived for centuries. An ancient, secretive race of were-panthers faced with near extinction. To assure their survival they must conceal their identities and abilities, while protecting mankind from an unimaginable, primordial evil.
Pride: The Abcynians, Book II
Plagued by headaches and memory loss after a life-threatening injury, Rhiannon has spent years confined behind the walls of a decrepit castle. When a loathsome earl attempts to earn her favor with an extravagant painting, she is inexplicably drawn to its depiction of an ancient, mythical race. Believing the Florentine artist could be the key to unlocking her past, she and her maid escape, hoping to enlist his aid. Upon reaching the Piazza della Signoria months later, she is unaware that the handsomest man amongst the lavish merchants is the one she seeks. 
Dante Luciano is considered the most renowned artist of his time. His patrons are wealthy and powerful. His charm and prowess with women legendary. Yet, as the adopted son of the king of his kind, he must guard his secrets. For he possesses the heart and soul of a panthera prince, therefore, able to shift into a lion. Taken by the discovery of a rare Abcynian female nearby, he recognizes her as his destined mate. Discovering Rhiannon is stricken with debilitating pain, he takes her home, providing the remedies, protection, and knowledge she needs to survive.
While she heals, they fall in love, beginning to plan a future together. However, when her memory returns, imminent danger looms. It’ll take all of Dante’s abilities and the Abcynians to save Rhiannon from a vicious, beastly foe.

Rhiannon stood upon a parapet looking out at the rough, dry land that seemed to have no end. Warding off a chill, she tugged at the cape draped about her shoulders, trying desperately to understand who she was.
Lifting her chin toward the sky, she breathed in. The scent of baking bread and a roasting pig from the kitchen reached her nostrils. Her mouth watered. The earth smelled of the veil of ice that dusted the land.
How odd it seemed that she could scent such simple things and know their origin, yet she could not remember her surname.
“Who am I?” Rhiannon asked aloud, closing her eyes, but balking when pain pounded within her temples. Her last bout of headaches had kept her abed for three days. She did not relish spending another day in seclusion.
“Pray tell me the answer,” she demanded of the heavens. “Why have I forgotten? Why have I been forgotten?”
Her only answer was always the same. Whenever she dreamt of the past, images of frightening beasts loomed in her mind. In truth, she feared that she’d been involved in some sort of sorcery before her memory had gone.
But it never felt right to think she was wicked. She attended church whenever she could, felt welcomed by the parish priest. If he could not detect evil within her spirit, she must be wrong. The frightening images of men and women interchanging with leopards and lions were nothing more than dreams.
“Rhiannon, you shouldn’t be outside,” Mary Baker, her maid, said from the doorway. “Come back inside. The Baron has summoned you to the salon, we dare not keep him waiting.”
“Aye, I am coming.” Rhiannon turned and headed toward Mary. With each step her feet felt heavy, her body as weak as if she’d trudged fathoms before taking the maid’s hand.
“Are you still weak, dear?” Mary asked, catching Rhiannon’s elbow and aiding her inside. “You shouldn’t have ventured far from bed if you weren’t feeling well.”
“I’m well enough,” Rhiannon insisted.
Out of habit, she shifted the golden bracelet adorning her left wrist. The delicate gold chain always felt so heavy, but she’d been schooled to wear it by her guardian.
“Soon I pray I will rid myself of illness. I am tired of feeling helpless.”
“Mayhap you should consider removing that bracelet? My husband, God rest his soul, had an aversion to milk. Whenever he drank it, he became ill.”
Rhiannon allowed Mary to lead her to an ornate wooden chair. “Are you suggesting gold is the cause of my headaches and weakness? I cannot fathom such a thing.”
“Milady, you wear more than the bracelet. I know of the necklace that adorns your throat. I’ve never seen it gone. Likewise, your ankles are so adorned.”
“Uncle Garfield insists that a noblewoman should wear fine jewelry,” Rhiannon said, staring at the bracelet on her wrist. “I shall ask him if I may remove the jewelry for short amounts of time. Mayhap we can ascertain if they’re the cause of my ailments.”
“I shall pray that he will agree.” Mary patted Rhiannon’s hand in the way an aunt or mother would, only Rhiannon always felt older than her maid. “Allow me to look at you. You are to meet the Earl of Cliffton this eve. You’ll want to look your very best.”
Stunned, Rhiannon stiffened. “What mean you, Mary? Why am I to meet him?”
“He’s the man you’re expected to marry.”
Rhiannon felt ill. She couldn’t marry someone. “How can this be?”
“Oh, my dear, I thought you understood why the Baron has afforded you a noblewoman’s education. Lord Cliffton is favored by Queen Mary. You’re likely to be taken to court before you marry. Think of it. You could finally leave the castle, as you’ve wanted for a long time.”
“Aye, I wish to travel. Mayhap leave England altogether. I have no wish to marry.”
“For nearly twenty years I have watched over you, Rhiannon.” Mary’s kindness was the one true bright spot in her haze of confusion and melancholy. “I confess, you were so sad and ill from your head injury, I feared we would lose you. Now that you have come into your own, the Earl will favor you kindly, I’m sure.”
Rhiannon glanced down. She wore a green damask gown with long sleeves, a narrow waist, split skirt, and a gold brocade underskirt. As Mary hummed and brushed her small hands down along the skirt, she took notice of her maid’s hands. They seemed less agile than they’d once been. Light brown age spots had begun to form on Mary’s fingers. Her once dark brown hair was peppered with gray.
Frowning, Rhiannon lifted her left hand. Her fingers were long and tapered to clean, trimmed nails. Her palms were unburdened by time or calluses. They were the hands of a young woman. For as long as she remembered, her almost white blonde hair had never thinned or shown strands of age. Mayhap she was cursed with a face so hideous that her body refused to age along with it.
“Mary, might I ask you something?”
“You may.”
“How long have you served at Linwood? You’ve been my only friend here. You must think me selfish for not asking before.” It was true. For as long as she could remember, the other maids and attendants in Linwood kept their distance, as if she’d had the plague.
“You’ve been battling illness since I arrived twenty years ago, dear. You needn’t think poorly of yourself. While I’ve never been fond of the Baron, I stayed to look after you and prayed for you to learn who you are. Whatever the answer, I believe you are a good woman and deserve happiness.”
“I suppose it is safe to admit that I’m trying to guess my age. When I first came here, I was young, yet I always feel old.”
“Well, when you first arrived you were believed to be about eighteen.”
“How old do I look now?” Rhiannon asked.
“Do you not know what you look like?”
“Nay, the maids who assist with my ablutions and dressing rush me from the chamber to my lessons.”
“Had I not been so busy tending to Baron Linwood’s household, I’d have realized it sooner. His lordship needs a wife, not a lady’s maid. Forgive me.”
“There’s nothing to forgive. I don’t want to look at myself anyway.”
“Why wouldn’t you?”
“The servants stare at me when you’re not around to shoo them off. The Baron rarely allows me to venture beyond Linwood Castle unless we are to attend church. Even then, people stared. I must be hideous.”
“Men stare at you?”
“Aye, and Baron Linwood is ashamed of me and wishes to marry me off to some poor, misguided man. Why else would the other maids deny me the right to a looking glass?”
“I shall correct the staff as soon as I can. Right now, I’ve proof that you are lovely,” Mary said, rushing across the room to search through clothing trunks and an armoire. When she didn’t find what she was looking for she left.
Confused, Rhiannon waited. Mary returned with a mirror in her hand, coming up and holding it at eye level. “Look at yourself. Do not be afraid.”
With Mary’s encouragement, Rhiannon met her own eyes for the first time in twenty years. “Merciful heavens!” she exclaimed, slapping her hands to her cheeks.
“You are lovely in face and form. Unlike many English beauties, your skin is like burnished gold. Your eyes are as beautiful as amber. Your nose is so elegant it reminds one of a cat’s.”
Mary was right. She was pretty. But when she looked in the mirror she saw not a cat. She saw a…female lion.
Immediately, her head pounded, warning her away from the thought. “Pray take it away. I’ve seen enough.”
“If it is your wish,” Mary said, lowering the mirror. “We mustn’t delay much longer. It’s important to make a favorable impression upon the Earl of Cliffton. It is my hope that he is sincere in his intentions toward you. If he is, you’ll be able to live your life again, far away from here.”
“I fear you may be disappointed. I’ve no intention of marrying any man until I regain my memory. Mercy, I may have been married.”
“You were not. The Baron made certain a midwife examined you when you came here. You’ve never lain with a man.”
“Dare not mention such things.” Rhiannon gasped, embarrassed to know such intimacies had been gained from her person.
“I did not mean to offend you, dear. Something is different about you this eve. I cannot ascertain what it is, but I feel as if you’re ready to confront whatever it is that’s held you back.”
“My past. I wish to reclaim it.” From the hallway, Rhiannon heard the pitter patter of a maid’s feet coming toward them. “Harriet comes.”
Mary frowned, facing the doorway. “How do you know…” Unable to finish her question, she fell silent when Harriet opened the door.
“Baron Linwood requests your presence in the great hall, milady,” the maid said from the hallway.
Aware that there was little choice, Rhiannon nodded to Harriet and allowed Mary to finish preparing her for audience with the Baron and his guest. 

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