The broken tower that stood hundreds of years in the past lies before Melisse like a curse long since uttered and forgotten.
She is a low born woman struggling to come to grips with the fire burning in her heart and the magic she holds in her hands.
Yet she has come to the Tower of the Alchemist in search of the missing past that once belonged to the Marechal de Barristide, a man who hunted her, then saved her as only a hero could.
In return, she would use her power to aid him and find the memories he has forgotten. Little did she realize that she would find so very much more and that it truly is the kind of knowledge that cuts like knives no matter who dares to seek it out.
The tragic past of the Marechal unfolds before her like phantoms resurrected and in the end she is faced with a choice more bitter than any she could have ever imagined.
This is Volume V of the Marechal Chronicles, a tale of dark fantasy and magic, a story of passion and of love so strong that it sunders a hero’s heart forevermore.
This installment in the Marechal Chronicles is now live at Amazon! Click here to get it at a special introductory price.
An excerpt from the book to whet my readers’ appetites:
…And sooner or later, as he knew he would, he would hear a quiet rustle of leaves or the faint sound of a twig breaking and then he would feel the feather light touch of a graceful hand slip under his elbow.
The scent of her was just as intoxicating as the first time they had walked through the forest together and if there were times when they were content to simply walk, not speaking, then these were moments of grace that the alchemist’s son had come to treasure despite his misgivings, despite what the young woman represented for him.
This day his father had resumed his work in earnest. Etienne had come to recognize the febrility of his movements, the posture that straightened his old man’s stooped back when he had decided to fully take up his useless pursuit once again.
Thus, it had been an easy decision to leave the tower, walk past the forgotten stones lying in wait for him and his hammers, and pass into the dappled light of trees on the path to his heart’s desire.
He was not disappointed.
“Are you real?” he asked in a murmur. He meant it in jest, but felt a tickle of fear that kept his voice low in anticipation of her answer.
The light grip at his elbow tightened momentarily, then relaxed.
“Of course I am.”
Her hand had appeared as if from nowhere and the scent of her, fresh and clean, lifted the corners of his mouth just as a good morning kiss might have done.
Etienne stopped and turned to look down at the woman at his side.
“I would so like to believe you. So very much.”
She nodded, then reached out for his hand to take in her own.
Then she lifted it and placed his hand upon the center of her chest, his palm down and between her breasts.
“Then feel me, Etienne. This is real.”
He heard the meaning of what she said. She spoke of herself and she spoke of them.
Like a young stallion balking before the danger it sensed, Etienne changed the subject.
“Where do you go each night, Myri? I find myself lying awake safe and warm in my father’s tower, and I can’t help but wonder about you.”
The corners of her eyes crinkled with the smile she gave him then and it was a thing just as intoxicating as the perfume of her presence.
“Why, each night the spiders come by the hundred and they weave for me a downy berth upon which I might lie.”
Etienne frowned, then could not help but smile as she went on.
“I have the stars overhead for my roof and if the air is too chill, then weasels, rabbits, and badgers make a truce between their nations and come to nuzzle against me to keep me warm until the night is done.”
Etienne felt her lean closer to him. Her movement was subtle, yet the touch of her body against him was like fire.
“And should the clouds come to fill the starry sky and loose fine rains upon me like tiny jewels pouring down from faraway kingdoms, then all the owls for one hundred leagues round come to shelter me with their great wings, and they whisper to the rabbits at my side that they need not fear for this night they are as safe as I am.”
He reached for her chin with his free hand and tipped her head up to look at him.
Eyes of azure looked steadily back into his own, and Etienne could imagine that what he felt then might have been like what it is to drown.
“I would shelter you, Myri,” he said as he put his arms around her.
“I would keep you warm.”
He bent to her, and she did not turn away.
The taste of her was sweeter than any fruit. Her lips were softer than he could have ever imagined.
“The rains would not have their way with you in my embrace,” he murmured, the sensation of his lips brushing against her lips as he spoke a velvet touch that deepened his breathing and made his heart pound.
Myri’s hand lifted up to Etienne’s chest in a gesture to mirror his.
And then she pushed him away from her, her eyes never breaking their hold, filling all his vision even as she forced him away.
“Yet I must ask myself,” she said, “And the wind, the trees, or anything else that would hear my words other than you, how can this beautiful man break my heart and deny all that is proof to the contrary of the ways of the world? How can this man who would steal my kisses tell me that no magic exists in this world?”
Myri dropped her gaze, lowering her head as if bowing to his inevitable reply, and Etienne felt the strength of her obstinacy lessen in the face of what he might say next.
“Perhaps, then I must admit at the last that I have been mistaken.”
Her breath caught as she looked up.
What she surely saw in his eyes was what he felt. Open, honest sincerity. She searched his face and he did not flinch from her regard.
“I do not lie to you, Myri. What is more, I pledge to you that no lie shall ever pass my lips with you before me.”
She shook her head, disbelief plain in her eyes.
“You do not mean this. You say that you would keep the rain from having its way with me, but the truth is you tell me anything so that you might have your way with me.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. For this, you must trust me. But, I repeat that I know now that I have been in error and while I still doubt the kind of magic of which you speak, of another, I am quite sure.”
Myri’s eyes widened as she heard the truth in his words.
“And what is this magic that you have come to believe?”
He did not hesitate to answer her.
“It is the magic of two souls that join. It is the magic of the heart that fills me with such fire that I cannot sleep at night. It is the magic that brings me to my knees before you, beautiful woman from the wild.”
Etienne dropped to his knees then and looked up to her.
“I speak of the magic that no one can deny once they have felt its touch. I speak of love.”
Myri stepped close to him, then took his bowed head in her hands and clasped him to her belly.
“Etienne, do not jest. Do not make of me and what I feel for you a game.”
The alchemist’s son dared not breathe. He felt it as surely as she did, they had come to a pivot point from which neither of them could ever return unmarked.
And then she was sliding down his body, her hands moving to his shoulders. Her breasts pressed against his chest as she went to her knees with him, a willing reflection of the man before her.
He looked at her steadily and murmured, “I would not dare, Myri.”
Her mouth was on his, hungry, strong, almost violent. She reared her head back in an instant and he saw her blue eyes flash.
“I dare. I cannot help but chance the danger you represent.”
Etienne did not understand what she truly meant, but he understood the message of her hungry mouth all too well as she went to his lips again.
All their hard words washed away from them. The tension that had been building flowed down their arms and into hands that deftly undid Etienne’s buttons and untied the sash at Myri’s waist.
They were like those lost in the desert, the answer to their thirst within reach and they both seized it as they seized one another, in desperation, with a primal need from which all logic fled and they became savage things that cared nothing for the reasoning of men.
Then, as the thought of what they were about to do penetrated their mutual haze of lust, they became a man and a woman once more.
The rhythm of their movements slowed as they forced themselves to savor the moment, to taste to the fullest an experience that they would always remember.
Myri’s skin was unblemished. Pale, creamy flesh that yielded beneath Etienne’s hands. She was soft yet he felt lean, corded muscles within her lithe body in the same way he saw stiff determination barely hidden in her azure gaze.
If her eyes softened then as she watched him spread his shirt out upon soft ferns for them, he could not forget the force of her, the power she seemed to have over him, telling him all the while that he had been wrong.
But for this, he knew there was no mistake.
He could never regret the truth that burned in him then.
The woman who slipped the tunic from her shoulders at that moment had magicked his heart away from him, and all that he saw in her was a reflection of the same.
She burned for him as much as he did for her.
Etienne admired the nuances of the woman before him. Her lips were a rich, deep red, while the nipples upon her breasts were of the palest rose, a delicate color that aroused him more than the sight of any woman ever had.
“Your beauty … ” he began to say before she interrupted him.
“ … is at your disposition,” she finished…
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