Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Diana Pharaoh Francis’s Max and Alexander from Shadow City.
The world is falling apart. The magical apocalypse has come. Now is the time to guard the covenstead against both raiders and refugees. But Max has been stolen by a powerful demi-god who is determined to force her to find a way to use a magical power she never knew she had—even if it kills her. Meanwhile, back in Horngate, a Fury is birthing. When the creature breaks free of the fragile bonds that enclose her, her rage will scour the covenstead from the earth.
Max finds herself in the Shadow City, a place of mysteries and magic, where she must battle for her freedom or become a slave to creatures of dreadful greed and power. Back in Horngate, Alexander must swallow his anger and pride if he hopes to defeat the Fury, a creature that no one has ever successfully fought before.
In the end, it will be courage, friendship, faith and loyalty that win the day. Or else so one will live to see tomorrow.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of Bitter Night.
The Magic Apocalypse
The magic apocalypse has come and shopping is much harder now. The malls have been looted, the big box stores are fortresses, and the little mom and pop shops have all been abandoned. There is precious little food, gas or other supplies to be had. What little is left is guarded and warred over, this first post apocalyptic winter. The world has become a dangerous, terrifying place, where survival is the only thing on anyone’s mind.
At Horngate they celebrate. They bring out the Yule log and light a bonfire. The Hall glitters with candles and drops of crystals in brilliant colors glisten in the air like jeweled stars. The air is redolent with the scents of cedar, cloves and a mouth-watering array of foods. The green houses have begun to produce and there are vegetables, squashes, berries and melons. Pigs, beef, turkey and venison have been roasted and platters of meat weigh down the tables. Fresh bread fills the baskets on another table and beside them, crocks of fresh honey and butter wait to be slathered on.
All the covenstead has gathered, along with new allies and friends who have come to trust the witches and their warriors. They drink from the wassail cauldron and toast each other and those who are absent but not forgotten.
“What did you get him?” Tyler asked Max.
She lifted her brows. “Like I would tell you.”
“Because it’s none of your business.”
Tyler grinned, his eyes flashing. “Oh, it’s something naughty, then. Maybe some hot lingerie? I always knew you’d look good in leather and lace.”
Max snorted, but couldn’t help her blush. “Right. I just ran down to Victoria’s Secret.”
He lifted a shoulder. “It’s not out of the question. I doubt the looters stole all the teddies, bras, and thongs. You could probably find plenty of stuff to turn Alexander on.”
“He’s a man. It’s not that hard to turn you guys on. A wet T shirt will do it.”
“We don’t even need that much,” Tyler scoffed. “A sharp breeze will get us going. So what did you get him?”
Max stiffened as she felt Alexander enter the room. His presences was wild, like a hurricane wind. Something rippled through her. Every sense became hyper aware, her body heating. Within, her Prime rose and stretched. Max couldn’t control the low sound in her throat when Alexander’s dark gaze found her. Everyone in the room vanished. She swallowed, her mouth going dry. He did this to her every time.
He prowled toward her, his body compact and lean. He moved through the crowd like a jaguar, his eyes locked on hers. Max shivered with anticipation. Electricity arced between them and her heart thudded against her ribs.
“Whew! Cool down, will you? I’m about to burn up,” Tyler said.
Max barely heard him. She walked away, unable to wait.
She stopped in front of Alexander. He smelled of wood smoke, mint and something entirely himself. He reached for her, settling his hands on her hips and pulling her against him. Max slid her hands around his waist.
“Where have you been?” she asked.
He smiled wickedly, his dark eyes flashing. “Did you miss me?”
“Maybe. Answer the question.”
“I had something to take care of.”
Her fingers curled into his back. “That’s annoyingly vague. What?”
He smiled, leaning down to brush his lips along her cheek until he reached her ear. “You will see.”
She pinched him hard, even as tingles ran down from his lips, whirling through her body in tightening spirals. She licked her lips, smiling as he sucked in a breath, his cheeks flushing. He made her feel wild and out of control. It was good to know she had the same effect on him.
He pushed her away slightly and grasped her hand. “Come on.” He tugged her out of the hall.
He took her out the main entrance and down into the valley. Tiny diamonds of snow spun through the air, filling the night with stars.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked when he led her toward the greenhouses.
“You will see.”
They went past the greenhouses and up along a rocky cleft. They climbed up through the blackened trees left by the summer’s fires until they reached the top of the ridge. Alexander turned and followed the top of the ridgeline until he came to a cluster of boulders that rose more than fifty feet into the air. He turned to wink at Max and then bounded upward, climbing like he’d been doing it for years. He’d taken quickly to the outdoor life, Max noted with approval as she watched the play of muscles in his back and thighs. Her stomach clenched and she sighed, puffing a plume of steam. What were they doing out here when they could be in bed?
Then she shrugged. Beds were overrated and as Shadowblades, the cold didn’t bother either her or Alexander. With a grin of anticipation, she followed him up.
He was waiting at the top. A thick comforter was spread out on the floor of a shallow cave in the rock. It was no more than eight feet deep. A thermos and two mugs sat beside it, together with a basket of muffins, cookies and chocolates.
Alexander motioned for her to sit. Max lifted her brows, but did so without a word. To her surprise, Alexander knelt down, pushing her knees apart until he was between them. His expression had turned serious.
“I do not want to do this any more,” he said softly.
Max tensed. “What do you mean?”
“I want more. I want forever.”
She stared, her heart starting to pound. “What do you mean?”
His hands framed her face, his thumbs brushing the melted snow from her cheeks. “I want forever. With you.”
As if that made everything clear. She frowned, her chest tightening. It was suddenly hard to breathe. “As in ‘til death do us part? That kind of thing?”
He didn’t smile as she half-expected him to. “Something like that.” His thumbs brushed her lips and he bent and kissed her. His lips were cool and his tongue was warm. He went slow, licking the inside of her lips and then delving deeper.
Max’s toes curled inside her boots and her hands clenched on the blanket. Delicious vines of heat uncurled in her belly, wrapping her body and pulling tight with exquisitely painful desire. She moaned and lifted herself to press harder into the kiss, but he pulled away and let go of her face. Instantly she felt cold.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box a little bigger than the size of his palm. He held it out to her. “Merry Solstice.”
She looked at it. It was dark blue velvet tied with a cream colored bow. The ribbon was mashed from being inside his pocket.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Open it and find out.”
He didn’t move as she stared at the box like it was a snake, but she could feel the tension radiating off him. His Prime had risen to the killing edge and she could feel it straining to be unleashed. Slowly she took the box and untied the ribbon. She chewed her upper lip, turning the box in her fingers.
“Open it,” he said, and there was a pleading note inside the command.
She flicked a glance at him. His expression was full of emotion she couldn’t read. Or wasn’t sure she wanted to. Coward.
Forever. He wanted forever.
She drew a breath. She never imagined she could have forever with anyone. She’d never wanted it. Then Alexander had come along and forever was like heaven on earth. She was terrified he didn’t really mean it. Or that they couldn’t really have it. It was like a soap bubble: touch it, grab it, and it would pop and she’d be left with nothing.
She let her breath out slowly. But it was real. He was real. She had to trust that. Trust him.
She lifted the lid. Inside was a bracelet. It was black with a silvery sheen. It was about half and inch wide and as she stared at it, Max noticed that it seemed to move, like heat wave off the desert pavement.
Max ran her finger lightly along it. It was both warm and electric. Power zinged up her arm. It wasn’t until then that she realized that there was another bracelet with it. She looked at Alexander.
“Your sister made these,” she said. Valery was a powerful smoke witch.
He nodded. “The are something like the bindings that the Caramaras gypsies use when they . . . marry.” He said the last word carefully, as if he was afraid t spook her.
But Max wasn’t spooked. Not any more. Her stomach was in knots with such want, such hope, that she thought she might explode. But her fear had vanished. This was right. This was what she wanted.
“What do they do?”
His eyes widened. “You are not running to the hills,” he said in wonder.
“No, I’m not,” she agreed, the corner of her mouth twitching in a sardonic smile. He had ever right to think she would. Given their history. “What do they do?” she repeated.
His hands clenched into fists on his thighs, his expression hardening as if he was about to tell her some awful news. “They bind us together. We will know where each other is always. We will feel each other’s feelings. As time passes, we may be able to read each other’s thoughts, especially in heightened states of emotion.” He hesitated. “They cannot be removed. This is forever.”
Max stared at him a long moment, seeing his fear and dreadful hope. She looked down at the bracelets, then hooked one over her finger.
“Okay,” she said.
He goggled at her and she nearly laughed at his astonishment. “Okay?” he repeated. “Just, okay?”
“Yeah. What else did you want?” She slipped the bracelet onto her wrist and instantly it shrank into to fit her. It didn’t feel quite like metal—more like smoke and liquid silver. Power ran through her for an electric moment and she felt like she’d just swallowed the sun. Heat exploded in her gut and then her body throbbed with joy and exhilaration.
“Wow,” she whispered huskily. “Wow.”
Alexander was staring at the bracelet on her wrist in absolute shock. “I never thought—” He looked at her. “Why?”
She picked up his bracelet and held it out to him. “Because I’m not afraid of forever with you. I’m afraid of forever without you.”
Almost mechanically he took the bracelet from her and slid it on. Instantly Max was hit with a flood of his emotions. Joy, disbelief, relief and desire. His essence wrapped around her in a maelstrom. Vaguely she felt him take her hand, his fingers weaving together with hers.
They sat for long minutes, adjusting to the feel of each other deep inside themselves. It was . . . miraculous. But Max wanted more. She reach for Alexander. Her arms slid around his neck and she found his lips. This time their kiss was hungry and almost desperate. She could feel his desire mirroring her won and it stirred her storm of need into a hurricane. She ripped at his clothing, wanting to feel his flesh, wanting to rub herself against him . . .
The scene ends here, for now. I hope you enjoyed! Watch my blog for the rest of it, including Max’s present for Alexander. And look for Shadow City at Christmas time. You can preorder now! And I have a short story coming out in Demon Lovers: Succubi in the next few weeks. Watch www.demonlovers.info for more info. And my website is www.dianapfrancis.com.
Meet Diana Pharaoh Francis!
Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Her latest series is The Crosspointe Chronicles. They include The Cipher and The Black Ship. Her next book, The Turning Tide, will be available in May of 2009. Diana teaches at the University of Montana Western. For a lot more information including where to go to read her blog, maps of her worlds, updated news, and other odd and fun tidbits, go to www.dianapfrancis.com. Diana also keeps a regularly updated blog at http//difrancis.livejournal.com
Want to purchase Diana’s novels?
- Bitter Night at Amazon | Book Depository
- Crimson Wind at Amazon | Book Depository
- Shadow City at Amazon | Book Depository
- Path of Fate at Amazon | Book Depository
- Path of Honor at Amazon | Book Depository
- Path of Blood at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Cipher at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Black Ship at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Turning Tide at Amazon | Book Depository
- The Hollow Crown at Amazon | Book Depository
Thank you Diana for taking part in Literary Escapism’s Black Friday!
Diana is giving away a copy of Bitter Night. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: What do you think happens next? (Besides the obvious and get your minds out of the gutters!) Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered. (US/Canada for a print copy or International for a digital copy).
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
All Black Friday contests will remain open until December 31st at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from the snazzy new plug-in I have. Have you checked out the other Black Friday contests yet? Check out the Master List to see all the Black Friday giveaways
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.