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About the author:
Mailing List: eepurl.com/AuNWj
What inspired you to write your book?
What at first started as a novella soon became a complete, serialized novel that the authors worked on writing during the summer of 2013. Now that all six parts have been released, Catherina and Mana — writing under the pen name Samantha Nolan — are proud to present the complete serial in a single volume. A sequel is now in the work, and they hope to release it somewhere at the beginning of 2014.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Sadie heard a deep voice boom across the square, bringing everyone to a standstill. The hand pressing Sadie down to the execution block eased, and she managed to raise her head.
His highly polished black boots were the first thing her eyes focused on. Slowly, as the pressure on her back eased further, her gaze traveled up sandy-colored, fine linen pants and a deep burgundy silk tunic decorated with gold embroideries and trimmed with the crests of a general. Her inspection stopped at the man’s face, and she gaped at the sight.
If the richness of his clothes hadn’t already betrayed his identity, the mask of midnight silk that covered half his face would have. The man who had halted the executioner was none other than Prince Jalen ‘Anaq Al-Jameyri, heir to the throne of Zammar.
The stories hailed him as a feared warrior and acclaimed general, although he was young for such accolades. It was said, that in the last war, he’d received a deep and festering wound in battle, and this was the reason behind his mask. It was also said that he was too proud and vain to show the scars to the world. It didn’t make sense to her. Soldiers should be proud of their battle scars. Shouldn’t they?
Sadie’s gaze finally met his, and eyes of onyx bore into hers through the eyeholes of the mask. They seemed to see right into her soul, leaving none of her secrets undiscovered. Most startling to Sadie, his gaze held no contempt for her, only what seemed to be slight interest. His attitude ran contrary to that of the overly excited crowd, who had been throwing discarded food and cheering for her death.
“Come to see me die, my prince?” Sadie said, her throat hurting from the effort of saying even a few words. It was too hard to keep her bitterness from her tone, and she didn’t even try. It served nothing to be polite to the prince; it’s not like he would help her. Even her address was the wrong one and she knew it. No commoner in their right mind would dare call him anything but “his highness”.
She wasn’t surprised when he didn’t respond.
Sadie looked around her, curious why no one else said anything about her transgression either. Since the prince’s arrival, the square had been utterly silent. No one talked. Nothing moved or rustled. Not a single person looked their way. Everyone’s eyes were downcast and averted, and most in the crowd were bowing their heads. When she chanced a glance at the official and executioner behind her, she saw the same evasion, deference, and fear. Sadie wondered if his own soldiers did the same thing in his presence. That certainly would add a level of difficulty to their military maneuvers. The sheer absurdity of the thought made her want to laugh, and she bit her lower lip to keep quiet.
She went back to surveying the square. The crowd’s stillness was making her ill at ease. They didn’t even appear to be breathing, although she knew it was impossible. It felt unnatural. Did the prince have some magical abilities? Sadie didn’t remember any rumors or stories indicating he did, but maybe it was only his presence that caused the hush. Still, she had never seen the square so quiet, even at night.
Sadie couldn’t stand the preternatural stillness any longer. “You could have them let me go,” she said, not expecting anything to come of it, but needing to try anyway.
“Hmm,” he replied, a wry smile twitching the corners of his sensuous mouth. For an instant, Sadie was spellbound by them. The man had lips made for sin.
His smile disappeared as fast as it had appeared. Once more grim and imposing, he asked, “Why are you here?”
Sadie straightened up and looked at him in defiance. She thought about lying, but rejected it. It wouldn’t help her now. “They say I killed a man.”
“Did you?” He sounded only mildly curious.
She had no answer for him. The man they had accused her of killing had obviously died or she wouldn’t be here, but he had been alive and hot in pursuit as she made her escape. He’d been bent on catching her and “giving her a lesson she wouldn’t soon forget” in spite of her attempt to protect herself.
She was sure she saw a flicker of something—be it interest or suspicion—flash in Prince Jalen’s eyes, causing her to finally avert her gaze. As a mere commoner, looking the prince in the eyes was an offense in itself, but staring him down could land her in a dank gaol, if not worse. But then, as she was about to die and she’d just come from the kingdom’s gaol, she could afford the luxury of not caring about protocol.
Sadie even toyed with the idea of using his name. She smiled at the thought of his shocked response, but her expression cooled quickly when her mind processed the brazen thought. He seemed to be letting her get away with breaking some rules. Sadie decided to not press the issue with another.
Defiant, she raised her head again and forced herself to watch him despite a lifetime of being told to respect and fear the royal family.
“Well?” Prince Jalen asked again, his tone demanding an answer.
Sadie started, and then blinked. She had been so taken by her own thoughts, she had completely forgotten his original question.
“I’m sorry, what did you ask me?” She was certain her question would anger him, especially without the honorific, but she didn’t care. What more could he do to her? Kill her a second time? She stifled a snort.
He might be of royal descent, but Prince Jalen was just a man. And she was a condemned healer. Her death was imminent and he held no power over her. This epiphany freed her of any remaining fear or awe she felt toward him.
“I asked you,” he repeated in a clipped voice, “if you killed the man as they claim.”
“He was still alive when I fled. If I killed him, then it was purely to save myself. Although, I don’t know how I could have done it.”
If Prince Jalen seemed surprised by her incertitude, he didn’t show it. Instead, in an almost thoughtful way, he asked, “And yet, he is dead now, is he not?”
“That’s what they tell me.”
This conversation was surreal. What did he want with her? She continued to stare at what little she could see of his face. His black hair—cut short in a military style and yet threatening to curl around his forehead and temples—somehow fit the sharp planes of his face. It gave him an expression that was too severe to be considered beautiful, but Sadie decided she preferred it that way. Then, she wondered why she even contemplated his physical appearance in a time like this. Her stay in the city gaol must have scrambled her mind.
From behind the mask, his dark eyes burned into hers, and she blushed, wondering if he knew what she’d been thinking about. Her fingers itched to move the mask away to see the rest of his face. Did his supposed scars really detract from his appearance, or did they add to his allure?
Sadie pushed herself back to her feet. Her attempt did not produce a reaction, so she could only conclude the prince exerted some power of his own over her captors. There was no way the officers would have let her take such liberties if they were fully cognisant.
Once they stood face to face, a calculating gleam entered the prince’s eyes. “You would want your life then?”
Her heart surged with hope. Would he… really?
“You can grant it to me,” she said quickly, almost stumbling on the words. “They’ll listen to you. They wouldn’t listen to me when I said I was innocent!”
“Hmm… perhaps. What would you be willing to give up in exchange?” he asked her.
Her mind screamed at her at his question. This had to be a trap! That it was nothing but a game to him. “I don’t understand, my prince.”
“Clearly you do not wish to die—”
“Who would?” she interrupted him hotly. Her hands shook and she hid them in her dirty smock so he wouldn’t see them.
“What would you be willing to do to continue living?”
Sadie squinted at him, trying to figure out if he was only toying with her, or if there could be something to his question. “Many things, my prince,” she finally answered, “but not just anything. I value my life and my practice—what would be left of it at any rate—and your question opens too many opportunities to go down unpalatable roads.” She took a deep breath. “I won’t take another’s life, and I won’t become a thief. If that’s your plan, I’d prefer to die now. My soul would wither, and I would rather be executed—here, now—than attempt to barter my honor for a few more days of stale bread.”
“Such lofty words for someone accused of murder.” He chuckled. “And did I hear the crowd chanting ‘kill the witch’?”
She pitched her chin forward and flipped a dirty strand of hair away from her face. She stared him straight in the eyes. “That may be, but they are what they are,” she replied. She still had her pride, even if she’d lost everything else.
“Fiery,” Prince Jalen murmured, more to himself, it seemed, than to her. “Fortunately for your honor, I don’t plan to make you an assassin or a thief. I’ve better men for this.”
“Good,” she grumbled, wondering what he had in mind for her.
“A year,” he suddenly said, surprising her.
“A year, my prince?”
“A year of your life at my command.”
Sadie cringed, her heart thudding in her chest. “A slave?”
Being his slave guaranteed she’d be used for sex. It didn’t sound appealing, but the logical part of her mind argued it was better than death. Could she—for all intents and purposes—prostitute herself for her life?
He smirked. “A… welcome distraction.”