WindVerse Book Three.
Captain Ardor Kahn of the Riezell Guardians has been given a lethal assignment--infiltrate the royal palace of King Alejandro of Storia and assassinate him. As part of her cover, she is put aboard a penal transport destined for a work camp. When the transport is overrun by Storian raiders set on liberating the prisoners, she finds herself staring into the wicked eyes of the mysterious and deadly Lord Savidos.
Prince Gabriel Leveche should be dead. After all, his father King Alejandro issued a death warrant for him, sending his son to a fiery execution. But Gabriel is a hard man to kill and he's come back from the realm of the shades as a Reaper--a shape shifter. Now known as Lord Savidos, Gabriel leads forces attempting to overthrow his tyrannical father while protecting his people. When he discovers a Riezell Guardian on the ship he has commandeered, he takes delight in matching wits with a member of the famed Guardians.
The Reaper and the Riezell Guardian join forces to combat the immoral stranglehold of the Storian king and in the bargain discover that love--and lust--come when least expected.
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November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Ardor's Leveche by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Ardor had been sitting alone in the pitch-black cell for over an hour. There were no amenities--not even a solid-plank bunk--upon which she could rest. Beneath her, the iron grating of the floor panels was as cold as a Sualannach whore's tit and she had been shivering for much of the time. When she heard the scrape of boots outside the door, she tensed.
The cell opened with a clunk as the heavy door slid into its pneumatic rails. Light from the corridor speared into the cell causing Ardor to put an arm up to block the painful intrusion. She blinked, squinting against the brightness and could see nothing save the dark silhouettes of two figures outlined against the light.
"Major Ardor Kahn," Breva growled, "get to your feet!"
The unease Ardor had been feeling escalated quickly to apprehension as her name was called out in a harsh, angry tone. She had been found out and now her life would be forfeit at the hands of the traitors. All she could do was to accept her end as bravely as she had been trained to do, with honor and courage. Slowly, she pushed up from the floor, her face half-turned from the intrusion of the light.
Breva stepped up to their prisoner and took her chin in his hand, jerking her face around. He anchored her head as his overlord came to stand beside him. Despite the squint of the woman's eyes, the major was surprised at her unexpected beauty.
"Not half-bad for a Riezellian, eh?" Breva inquired.
Ardor's back stiffened and she lifted her chin as high as she could in the taut grip of her captor. Although she could not see his face, she could make out a gleam in his eyes from the light reflecting off the titanium walls behind her and that put a chill down her spine.
"Not as lovely as I've heard it said Chastain Neff is, but it isn't the face that counts, is it, Milord?" Breva asked.
There was a whisper of speech in a tongue Ardor did not understand from the other man who had entered the cell. He was nothing more than a black, bulky shape but he was--by far--the more menacing of the two. It was in the steely vibrations he was giving off, the essence of power and authority that radiated from him, and it set the hair to stirring on Ardor's arms.
"My overlord says you might be moderately attractive if you weren't a treacherous fox placed in his henhouse. He wishes a better look at you."
Able to pull her chin from the first man's grip, Ardor watched him slide like a will-'o-the-wisp from in front of her only to have the second man step up close, crowding her, his towering height and breadth of body intimidating and menacing. There was a warm fragrance of cinnamon and musk coming from the tall one. That scent was almost intoxicating in a sultry, sly way. She could feel the heat of his body and the roughness of whatever garment he wore rasping against the bare arms she had instinctively crossed over her chest.
Staring into what she thought was his face, she was struck with dread when his eyes glowed crimson red, closed and then opened again to gaze fixedly at her. Once more the strange whisper of speech in that unknown tongue came from the deep depths of stygian blackness looking down at her.
"My overlord asks if you fear him, wench," the first man translated the strange words.
Although her knees were threatening to buckle, Ardor knew the worst thing she could do was show fright to her enemies. That they would make good use of such an admission was a given. She was no coward and refused to behave as one.
"Tell your overlord I never fear what I cannot see," she said, forcing her voice to be as strong and unwavering as she could make it.
She flinched for the man standing in front of her raised his hand, and for the first time she realized he was wearing a flowing robe of some sort for she could just make out the voluminous sleeve of the garment. Slowly, the lights came up in the cell from near-total darkness, lit only from the spill of light from the corridor to dark gray then to duskiness. As the volume of light continued increasing, Ardor could see the man--nay, the being--who stood in front of her and for the first time in her life knew the true meaning of terror.
His face glowed an eerie silver-white in the wash from the lights brightening overhead. Deep, dark caverns rimmed eyes the color of spilled blood. His cheekbones were prominent, fleshless, and where his lips should have been, bare bone was peeled back to reveal two rows of sharp fangs gnashed together like threads on a zipper. There was no skin on that cinerary facelessness and when he lifted a hand, the stark contrast of his skeletal fingers against the black fabric of his robe brought a groan of horror to Ardor's throat. So shocked was she at his appearance that Ardor did not realize it was a mask she had been staring at.
At once the lights went out and she was plunged into near-darkness once more. When his low, throaty whispers came this time, Ardor felt herself begin to tremble. She was terrified he would put his fleshless fingers upon her face.
"My overlord asks," the first man said in a soft voice, "if you fear him now."
She knew his fingers were coming toward her face. She could feel the displacement of the air, hear a slight rustle she thought sounded like skin peeling back from bone. Biting her lip, embracing the pain to keep herself from groaning again, she pressed against the wall of her cell and waited for the touch she knew might well unnerve her altogether.
But when it came, the touch was soft and warm. There was no frigid scraping of bone along her cheek, but rather a slight scratchiness as though the palm of the hand touching her might be rough with calluses. It was a strong hand--a sword hand she guessed--and it was sliding gently down her face.
He moved closer, pressing against her. One hand was on her face and the other came up to mold itself around her breast where it kneaded the full mass as though he had every right to do so. Shocked by such liberties, Ardor opened her mouth to berate him, but the fleshy pad of his thumb slid over her lips to silence her--a warning she had no choice but to heed.
That raspy, throaty whisper fanned across her face and she flinched--expecting the stench of the grave to issue from the man's mouth--but instead there was the sweet scent of lemon, which surprised her.
"My overlord asks if you want him to allow you to live."