It’s the holiday season, and as such, sharing is caring. Dragon and I decided, why not share some of our writing with you? Below you’ll find an excerpt from our third book Clashing Muses available at Amazon. (<–Clicky the link below to grab your copy!) In this installment, you get to meet most of the main cast of characters and get a little taste of the sort of shenanigans contained within the pages of the book.
“Kelda Donner,” I motioned to get her attention, “C’mon down this instant. You need to sit and stay put.”
“But this is the best way to see everything,” she whined.
With a slow breath, I schooled my features stern, injecting an additional bit of authoritarian gruffness into my tone as I thumped the royal blue cushion of her chair. “What did I say, young lady? Down. Now.”
Kelda pouted as she drifted back to the stone floor, surrounding herself in full sulk as she settled back into the chair, muttering about what a meanie I was. I swallowed my amusement around the solid lump lodged in my throat when, for a moment, all I could see was Astrid, defiant scowl and all. She’s not dead, I reminded myself with a shake of my head to dislodge the melancholy. She’s at the Academy.
Granted, all I had to go by was the tear stained note she left on her bed, and occasional updates from Bella’s contacts still loyal to her. I trusted Bella wouldn’t lie if something bad were to happen.
My breath hitched around the pain of being kicked in the spleen and I smothered it with a fake cough. Reaching out, I pressed a hand to Bella’s rounded belly before I realized what I was doing. She started, blinking at me and leaning away from the table to slap her gloved hand over mine. “Dirk? Do you need something?”
“I was about to ask if you were okay,” my fingers seemed rooted in place. “You look paler than normal.”
One russet brow cocked, she smirked. “I see you’ve been working on your sweet talk.”
“That’s not -”
“Dirk,” she soothed, ducking her head to pull my attention back to her face, away from the creamy alabaster expanse of her décolletage. “I’m fine.”
The spot beneath my palm rippled and Bella hissed a startled breath. I gave her a comforting belly rub. “I could feel them all the way over here. Do you need another glass of water? Maybe some air? Has this been happening all day?”
Bella shook her head with a low laugh. “You’re so considerate, just…” her words trailed off. Cheeks flush, her eyelids drooped, giving her absinthe irises a dreamy look I’d grown all too familiar with over the course of my courtesanship. Her hand over mine tightened and a full body shiver worked its way through her. “I need a moment. I can work through the… pain.”
“Pain?” I dropped my voice again when several pairs of eyes flashed my way. “Right. Gotcha.”
My skepticism must’ve rendered on my face because, after a few seconds, she gave me a fluttering smile and a pat on the hand. “This place is … suffocating me with all the spectral energy,” she murmured, leaning closer. “Paine is enjoying it a touch too much for my taste.”
I took in the red tinge to her sclera and sighed. “Right. Of course he is. I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking about the Shades being an issue for you.”
“Usually, they aren’t. No, this was my mistake. I’ve been so distracted with… you know,” Bella grimaced, jaw tightening in a wince mirroring the one that had me grinding my back teeth together when we both felt another movement beneath my hand. She knocked my arm away and held up a warning palm when I moved to reach for her again. When she spoke, her words were smothered in a seductive gravel that froze me in place. “And the toils, they’re particularly delectable tonight. A worthy appetizer for what the night has yet to offer.”
Before I could respond, another shudder racked her body and she let out a gasping breath. Blinking, she fixed her eyes on me, the red retreating from her sclera at a snail’s pace. Poised and calm, she nodded once, as if to reassure herself she was once again in control. “We need to leave,” was all she said.
I studied her for a long moment. Paine had been testing his boundaries with annoying frequency of late, and I wasn’t always sure Bella was cognizant of when he took control. The few times I’d asked about it had earned me a look that made me feel like a particular sort of idiot for daring to question her control over her Abyssal. I’d kept my mouth mostly shut on the subject since, deferring to her expertise but never truly relaxing my guard.
Mentally kicking myself, I gave my head a shake. Bringing a Necromancer into a veritable fortress of the dead was a little like turning on a flood-light in a room packed with moths. Squeezing her shoulder, the light touch of her cold flesh dosing me with a fresh injection of euphoria, as I searched the crowd for Hel. “Listen, all of the opening ceremony crap is out of the way. We should be able to skip out of here unmolested by the paparazzi.”
“I don’t know about that,” Bella laughed, stroking a hand along Solsken’s hair as my daughter snuggled under her arm with a jaw cracking yawn. “You forget who you are, your Highness.”
That earned a grin. “It’s good to be the King.”
“That’s the spirit,” Bella winked.
Groaning, I waved away the awful pun. “I see what you did there, Bella Blackmoore.”
A steady thump thump thump snared my attention. Kelda was still in full sulk mode, scrunched down in her chair, a mighty scowl twisting her face, the heel of her boot banging against the chair leg. I raised a brow at her and her foot stopped. My attention snared, she muttered, “I don’t know why you’re so mean to me.”
Yeah, I thought. It’s definitely time to go. Kelda was a handful on a good day. She’d inherited my Grandfather’s legendary temper and it was the last thing I needed on full display in public.
“Let me go tell Hel we have to leave,” I whispered to Bella.
She nodded with another sharp inhale, fanning herself as the rosy flush on her skin deepened in response to my touch. Rubbing the back of my sweaty neck, I dried my palms on a napkin, recomposing. Standing, I left the trio at the table to go in search of my wayward Queen. Scanning the crowd, I was thankful my height made short work of the search.
I found Hel conversing with a small group of elegantly dressed women. Well, the ladies around her were conversing. Hel was standing there, eyes almost glassy with boredom, nodding and offering false smiles at appropriate intervals.
Keeping up appearances, as always.
I did my part, circling around to come up behind her, snagging her by the waist and pulling her to me. I leaned in to murmur nonsense into her upturned ear, giving the tittering klatch something scandalous to busy themselves with pretending to ignore.
<Bella needs to leave. She’s not feeling well and the girls are tired.> I hated using my Psychomancy with her, because it always left me feeling like I’d run my brain through something sticky, like cobwebs on cobwebs.
“So?” Hel replied aloud, tossing a serene smile over her shoulder at me, the cold regard glittering in her eyes slamming into me like flung boulders. Worming herself tighter to me, notes of pumpkin pie topped with cinnamon crumble yanked my attention to her bared neck.
Nuzzling the spot, I forgot for a moment that despite all appearances to the contrary, this wasn’t my Morgan. Her hand reached back to cup my groin, stroking it through the fabric of my pants, driving an aroused Mini-Dirk into a twitching frenzy that made me regret cuddling up to her upon my approach. “She’s a big girl,” Hel purred, undulating her hips back to join the maddening movement of her hand, “she can handle her Abyssal.”
Her smile turning brittle as her fingers caught my groin in a vise-like grip. I bit down hard on her shoulder in response, to keep from groaning aloud at the pain. Hel answered with a sharp gasp, her body quaking against my chest. Dropping her head back, her warm breath tickled against my ear. “Or maybe, you want to get her back to her morgue for another of your… nightly vigils. Tell me, Dirk, is she as cold and still when you’re plowing into her as the corpses she entertains?”
Breathing hard, rage flashed through me in a heady rush and grit my teeth against the electricity sparking just beneath my skin. I wanted to grab Hel, wrap my hands around her throat, bend her back against a nearby table and show her… I stopped. Show her what?
That she could control me as effectively as any of her limnused lackeys? I tasted blood on my lips, felt the blue suede beneath my clenching fingertips at her hips, knew I was bruising the delicate skin beneath.
I knew. And I didn’t care. She needed to finish what she started.
“Pardon him, ladies,” Hel let out a low, humorless laugh for the gawking hens. They answered with a round of scandalized snickering. Hel’s hushed voice drew them in again as though she were imparting some hard sought nugget of wisdom as she sidestepped without removing her hand from my crotch. “You know how it is with men and their need to dominate.” Mini-Dirk received a light pat, much to the shocked delight of the socialites, if their gasping titters were any indication.
My nostrils flared as I struggled to rein in my emotions. I closed my eyes and willed the numbness that had become my constant public mantle to resettle on my shoulders and ease the ache in my pants before I embarrassed myself. Or worse, Hel. I still had mental bruises from the last time I’d made that mistake.
“We’ll resume this rousing discussion at a later date, ladies. I’m certain you’ll all be creative with your proof of loyalty. Send your husbands my regards. I’ll be expecting our gifts to arrive tomorrow. Come,” she paused, winging a side eye my way, “My King.”
Clashing Muses (The Nemesis Chronicles, Book 3)
Morgan…An Amazon never gives up, never surrenders. Faced with her biggest challenge, she must find the strength to claw her way out of the depths of the underworld to reunite with her Viking.
Dirk…Determined to find his feisty Amazon, he will move the very heavens themselves to bring her home. Even if the denizens of those realms do everything in their power to stop him.
Temporal Insanity…The members of Nemesis, scattered, broken, traversing timelines gone awry, how can they make sense of anything when nothing is as it appears?