Volume V of the Marechal Chronicles is Now Available!


, , , ,


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.”
Etienne sighed.
“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…

Keep checking in to see this page updated as soon as the book goes live.  A newsletter will go out soon for subscribers concerning a very special offer.

Not yet a subscriber?  There is still timefollow the link and be happy!

Readers of the Marechal Chronicles will be interested in this!




The book is now in the hands of my editor and she has promised to work quickly and thoroughly.  So keep checking back to see the wrapping come off this book (and some other sneak peeks between then and now).

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter in order to be notified as soon as my newest book is published.

The Wolf Pack Howls (HUGE promotion of shapeshifter romance)


, , ,

October 4th through the 6th, 2013

I’m very pleased to announce that I have joined the Wolf Pack, a multi-author promotion event featuring shapeshifter romance at incredible prices and lots of amazing prizes.

Read on if you’d like to join the Wolf Pack, too!

(Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list and be the first to hear about new releases and special promotions just for you!  Click here!)


Have you heard some wolves howling lately across the internet?  That would be the Wolf Pack which is running RIGHT NOW.  We have it ALL!

Shapeshifter romance books priced at 99 cents AND we have some AMAZING prizes.

How does an autographed picture of Joe Manganiello sound?  (He’s the actor who plays Alcide on True Blood.)

We also have a Kindle Fire up for grabs and a ton of gift cards as well as books.

So check out the pack and enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Click on a cover or scroll down to read the blurbs!  Many of these books are Top 100 best sellers in the werewolf and shapeshifter categories.

They are a STEAL at 99 cents!

Image  Image Image

Image  Image  Image

Image  Image  Image

Image  Image

Keep reading to find out about these great books and our special Wolf Pack giveaway!

image06Top 100 bestseller (Werewolves & Shifters)!

Little known fact about being a werewolf: There are always wolves at your door and some of them are up to no good.

Chloe Weiss’ dreams have finally come true: Now that her wolf has come, she can finally take her place in the pack. Even better, she’s mated to the next pack alpha, Jackson Swift. However, things are still far from perfect. The women of her pack resent her and there’s gossip that Chloe is an Omega, a werewolf so weak, they are banned from mating.

Then women start disappearing, violently kidnapped from their homes and never heard from again. There’s a killer on the loose in the small town of Huntsville, and the one wolf he’d do anything to have is Chloe. Now Chloe will have to fight…for Jackson, her pack and her life.


Barnes & Noble

image03An ARe Top 10 Bestseller!

An Amazon Top 100 Bestseller (Erotica and Werewolves & Shifters)!

“I came to you because I had to have you. I had to possess you. But I’ve stayed with you because I need you.”

Curvy city girl Abby Clumm wouldn’t normally travel to remote cabins in Alaska alone. But thanks to a poorly timed air traffic controllers’ strike, she finds herself alone in the boonies. As night falls, a shotgun she doesn’t know how to use and a flimsy wooden door are the only things standing between her and the vicious, hungry beast outside.

The scent of a woman nearby beckons research scientist Tarik Evert, sends him staggering outside into the cold. He doesn’t remember how he wound up at her door, naked and shivering. And he’s not sure what is about to happen if she lets him inside. He only knows one thing—the fierce, unrelenting hunger that brought him to her in the first place.

And that’s just the beginning of their troubles…


Barnes & Noble

All Romance eBooks

HBHW NovelA billionaire story unlike any other–

She watches him every day.

For two months she has spent each lunch hour studying the enigmatic man in a restaurant always filled to overflowing; yet, for two months he is there each day in a booth all to himself.

Sara thinks she is safe as she drinks in every gorgeous detail reflected in the bar’s back mirror. She asks herself who he could possibly be, convinced he would never notice her…convinced that no one ever does.

 She could not have been more wrong.
Chance brings them together and animal lust is unleashed. But what she never could have imagined is far from being the strangest part of this tale. For there are shadowy figures holding the strings offstage and the manipulation of Sara Renardine has only just begun.
This is a collection of the entire, best selling “Her Billionaire, Her Wolf” series–
His Every Desire
Lust and Lies
Blood Will Tell
These Cunning Bones
This book also features an all new bonus story concerning several principal characters from “Her Billionaire, Her Wolf”: Into the Nightlands



Thirty and single? Well, getcha butt to the Gathering!As if hitting thirty wasn’t enough, unmated Scarlet Wickham is summoned to this year’s Gathering. As a woman Marked to be the mate of an Alpha pair, she’s not going to find happiness anywhere other than in the arms of two Alpha werewolves. So, off she goes with her sisters in tow. ‘Cause yeah, she’s one of the plump Wickham triplets, and they’re all being carted off to werewolf speed dating.Keller and Madden, Ruling Alpha pair, have found their mate, and she’s more than they could have ever hoped for. She’s feisty with spirit to spare, and lush curves that they want to trace with their tongues. They can’t wait to solidify their bond and get to know the beautiful woman who is to rule at their side. But first, there’s the minor inconvenience of a challenge to the death…


When you’re the Alpha Male there are certain things that are expected of you, and finding a suitable mate is at the top of the list. For Jax, a powerful and dangerous werewolf, that’s not so easy because the one woman he’s deeply attracted to is a girl that will never be accepted by the pack. A woman that he can’t seem to get out of his head. A first for him.Beautiful, curvy Nikki Avery hates her job at the local strip club, but she’s struggling just to get by. Her dream of ever finding a decent guy worth loving shattered as night after night she stands before a crowd of drunken men, their jeers and catcalls burning a hole in her heart. To make things worse, there’s a killer on the loose, stalking the dancers, waiting to attack.But when a handsome stranger appears at the club, his dangerous, feral presence commanding attention, the sexual charge between them is so strong that she can barely breathe, Nikki finds herself swept into a world she never dreamed existed. A world where nothing is as it seems and once she enters, there is no turning back.

Julia has never been on a date in her life. She’s a curvy girl with no money, no education, and no way out of the town she works in as a library assistant… until Damien shows up. He’s just like the prince charming Julia always imagined would sweep her off of her feet. There are just a few things standing in the way of true happiness: he’s blind, he’s dating someone, and he’s WAY out of her league.Oh, and he’s a werewolf.
Curvy girl Bethany Mills can’t believe her good fortune when her new neighbor turns out to be devastatingly hot. But someone that gorgeous could never fall for someone like her…could he? A charming personality and appreciation for sappy music aren’t the only things Maximilian Pearce is hiding, and just when Bethany thinks she might get her very own happily ever after, a shocking revelation forces her to make a heartbreaking choice.

Adam has waited an eternity for his mate. After three thousand years of searching he’s almost given up hope that he’ll ever find her… almost convinced himself that God has forsaken him to a life of solitude.Cassie is heartbroken. At just 23 the buxom, beautiful werewolf has found herself caught up in her mother’s Machiavellian power struggles, forced into an arranged marriage with Lucius, the cruel, violent alpha of the Ironclaw tribe. When the Long Night arrives Cassie will become his property, to do with as he pleases.Imprisoned in Lucius’ summer home with Megan, a gutter-minded 400 year old teenager, and Rutherford, a senile housekeeper who can’t remember where he left his trousers, Cassie has almost resigned herself to her fate. She’d never dare go against her mother, and to reject Lucius would lead the weak Darkfangs into war with the mighty Ironclaws. Cassie knows she has no choice but to sacrifice her happiness for her tribe…

… And then she picks up a scent on the breeze, and everything changes.

The First Alpha is a tale of love against all odds; of betrayal, scheming and intrigue, and of two lost souls linked together across time.

Amazon US        Amazon UK


When I fell in love with Brandon Beck, tasted my first kiss in his arms, I believed deep in my bones that we would always be together. Nothing could ever tear us apart. And you know, I was right.

Until the flood came, I was right.

That day, I was sure I’d lost everything. Brandon Beck’s body had been swept away. The one boy that was meant for me was gone. That was what I thought, anyway.

Two years later, I caught a glimpse of him. Why would the love of my life stalk me from the shadows, why would he hide away for so long? Maybe it was all in my head.

Or was it possible… that Brandon Beck had never died at all?


Barnes & Noble

Leah Howard doesn’t believe in werewolves, even if she dreams of shifting. Pack alpha Seth Gladwin can’t understand why a human female is ringing all his mating bells.

When Seth chases Leah down in her apartment building and partially shifts in front of her, he wants nothing more than a forgetting spell placed on the plus-size beauty so he can continue investigating a secret society of Hunters intent on making the local werewolf clan extinct.

Only this time, the society’s prey isn’t shifters — it’s Leah.

Amazon US UK CA | BN | Apple | Kobo | All Romance Ebooks | Bookstrand | Carl’s Adult Books

Hannah Crane just graduated college, lives at home with her mom, and has no idea what to do with her life. One night while visiting her grandmother, she’s startled by a wolf and everything changes.

In the forest investigating a recent rash of murders and missing shifters, werewolf Alpha Caleb Overstreet doesn’t expect to run into a human, let alone a witch. Especially not one whose scent tells him she is his other half…or is she?

As the secrets of her ancestry are revealed, Caleb and Hannah are unable to stay away from each other and Hannah finds herself in danger. A rival pack believes her to be at the center of a curse that would enable them to control other shifters. But is Hannah the wolf charmer they believe her to be? Or is she really Caleb’s fated mate?

Amazon US

Amazon UK

THE WOLF PACK GIVEAWAY (Click here or on the image below to enter!)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

New Book Published! Her Billionaire, Her Wolf–The Novel (A Paranormal BDSM Romance)


, , , , , , , ,


A billionaire story unlike any other–

She watches him every day.

For two months she has spent each lunch hour studying the enigmatic man in a restaurant always filled to overflowing; yet, for two months he is there each day in a booth all to himself.

Sara thinks she is safe as she drinks in every gorgeous detail reflected in the bar’s back mirror. She asks herself who he could possibly be, convinced he would never notice her…convinced that no one ever does.

She could not have been more wrong.

Chance brings them together and animal lust in unleashed. But what she never could have imagined is far from being the strangest part of this tale. For there are shadowy figures holding the strings offstage and the manipulation of Sara Renardine has only just begun.

This is a collection of the entire “Her Billionaire, Her Wolf” series of novellas (previously published separately) in novel form–

His Every Desire
Lust and Lies
Blood Will Tell
These Cunning Bones

This book also features an all new bonus story concerning several principle characters from “Her Billionaire, Her Wolf”–

Into the Nightlands

An excerpt:

“Who in the hell do you think you are?” she said, wishing she could have shouted the words loudly enough to shatter the windows.

Then, instead of raising her voice, her hand arced up in the shadows. It was slow, yet not, passing through the air as quick as an adder’s strike, yet time had stilled in the near darkness and it was as though the air was as thick as syrup.

Instead of slapping him hard across the face, Sara felt her wrist entrapped in an iron fist.

And absurdly, she wondered what was written on the pages that drifted down while the shock of his viselike grip still vibrated down her arm.

The beautiful lanterns of his eyes locked on to her own as he said, “Do you not know? Do you really not know?”
His voice was calm, but his tone was glacial.

Careful…you’re on thin ice.

“I have no idea who you are,” she said, then bit back the rest of what she wanted to say as his eyes softened.

“Then look at me,” he said, his voice as calm as ever, “Right now, look at me and tell me who you think I am. The truth. All of it.”

Sara took a breath, then said, “You tell people what to do. You are so used to doing it, that you don’t notice anymore.”
He stepped closer to her and the hand holding her wrist did not let go.

“You’re arrogant. You think you’re entitled.”
Another half step closer as he pulled her hand to his chest, forcing her palm against him. Forcing her to feel him.

There are cracks under your feet.

“You think you own people.”
His other hand went to her shoulder and Sara could feel the strong beat of his heart under her palm.

“And, you are brave. You step in when you see someone in trouble.”

Then he touched the side of her neck and Sara’s breath came more deeply.

“You are a knight. You saved me….”

Pinned in the amber lights of his eyes, Sara knew that it was already too late, the uncertain footing she walked upon had turned to water as she felt herself drowning in his beautiful gaze.

He bent down to her, his lips soft against her own, searching for truths other than her words.

She pulled back from him, just enough to speak, her own lips brushing his as she said, “But, that doesn’t give you the right.”

His mouth captured hers once more. Warm and velvety. She felt the light rough of a day old beard rasp gently against her skin as she kissed him back.

“You don’t own me,” she said, breaking away only to sigh as his hands slid down her sides, then back up again as he cupped both breasts.

“I told you I would give you cause for regret. Now, I shall give you reason for pleasure.”

His voice was delicious in her ears, like warm honey as he continued, “And I can promise you that it will not be the last time, not for one nor the other.”

Hands that could have crushed the bones of her wrist to powder only seconds before roamed freely upon her body.

“Turn around…now.”

Currently at a very special sale price at Amazon

Volume V of the Marechal Chronicles



Thank you so much for your interest in the Marechal Chronicles.  The reception of the most recent release in the series, Volume IV, The Chase, has been fantastic and the feedback I am receiving is very encouraging.

Naturally, interest is high concerning the next part of the story and I want to assure everyone that the book is advancing nicely.

However, it seems that the Marechal and Melisse have quite a bit more to tell us before the end of the story and that means that Volume V is likely to be quite a long one (and consequently taking longer to write so that the story is told to the fullest measure).

I kindly ask for your patience.  At one point I had thought to publish this in six parts and have since decided that it would be better for everyone as five parts rather than splitting the story further..   (April 20, 2014 Edit:  The series will, in fact, be in six volumes.)

Please bear with me.  The story that is unfurling under my hands will be well worth the wait.

As always–thank you, all of you,


It’s Coming Folks! The Marechal Chronicles: Volume IV, The Chase is Now Available


, , , , ,


The next installment in the Marechal Chronicles is now available in publishing at Amazon and will be live soon(I will update here as soon as it is listed as available for purchase.)

To show my gratitude for the patience of the Chronicles’ readers, this book will be priced at a heavy discount of $.99 for just 24 hours before reverting to its normal pricing of $2.99.

You can find it now at Amazon or at Barnes & Noble

I am sending out a newsletter to all my subscribers so that they can take advantage of this special pricing if they wish.

Anyone who has enjoyed the Marechal Chronicles thus far will be in for something quite special as the story of Melisse and the Marechal of Barristide continues in this next to the last volume:

The saga continues in this 30,000 word installment of the Marechal Chronicles.

Warning:  This is Volume Four in a multi-part series and begins just after the events recounted in “The Marechal Chronicles: Volumes I, II and III”.  It is strongly recommended that you read the prior installments before Volume Four.


Melisse and the Marechal de Barristide have survived a demonic battle only to find themselves at odds with one another.

A noble yet lonesome man, the Marechal would have her stay at his side while he searches for the evil behind hideous murders throughout the realm.  Yet Melisse believes her destiny lies over the mountains, far from her past.

But that same past finds its way back to her and Melisse learns of yet another murder at House Perene.  Only she is too late as she discovers the identity of her own father and that the blood running in Helene Perene’s veins is no more noble than her own.

Meanwhile, Silas has learned to play the game of intrigue and deception at the Estril court while he remains captive and consort to a high General’s wife.  Jealousy threatens his very existence but nothing will stop him as he strives for his own freedom.

Behind them all lies the broken tower of the Alchemist.  It is a curse to anyone who falls under its shadow.  In bitter chagrin, Melisse discovers she is no exception as she makes the attempt to unravel its terrifying mysteries.

The Marechal Chronicles continues here, in Volume IV–The Chase and will end in Volume V–The Spoils (available soon).

To whet your appetites, here’s an excerpt from the book:

“How long did you say he’s been there?” said the man to the other as they marched down a squalid alleyway.

“Rubio said at least three days, maybe four,” the other responded, almost out of breath.
The pace the other man set was fast.

“And you say he’s been drinking this whole time..?” the first man said.

“Not me…Rubio,” was the breathless reply, then, “Says he ain’t moved in three days…just sits there, ordering bottle after bottle.”

“Well, I have a hard time believing that,” the first man said, “I mean I don’t care who you are, a man’s got to piss some time.”

“I know. I don’t believe it either. But Rubio says the fellow pisses only silver and his purse is a deep one. He says there might even be some yellow among the colors of his coin.”

The first man stopped suddenly, then jabbed a finger into the other’s chest. It sunk in a ways as the breathless man was more than a little fat.

“Nenouf, how in the hell did Rubio find this man in the first place? And before you answer, you know damned well I don’t want to hear that L’Anguille and his slimy partner are involved.”

His eyebrows bristled as he looked down at the shorter, portly man he had called Nenouf. Black as coal, his hair was almost blue and his regard just as dark.

“The Butcher’s Boys don’t work for that lot. Never have, never will…got it?”

Nenouf’s lower lip trembled as he looked up at the other, then his eyes shifted down to the pair of meat cleavers hanging from his companion’s belt.

They had been modified, their handles fitted with cross pieces just behind the wide blades and Nenouf had already seen on more than one occasion just how effective one was at blocking an opponent’s weapon while the other crashed into living flesh and bone.

His eyes flitted back up to the man frowning down at him.

“Butcher…now, don’t be mad Butcher, but it might be that Rubio got a message to go to that tavern, after all.”

Nenouf had no problem admitting that he was afraid of Butcher. While he had never been a real butcher, the black-haired man’s father had been. Right up until the day he had cuffed the son up the side of his head, as rumor had it. Seems that was when one of the very cleavers hanging upon his wide leather belt had found its way between the father’s eyes in what was apparently a bizarre accident. As some said, a sort of occupational hazard, really.

“Ok,” Butcher said and Nenouf could almost see steam starting to waft from his ears, “Looks like I need to have a heart to heart with Rubio. Right after we get the job done,” he said as he turned and started off again.

Nenouf hurried after him and heard him continue, “But not before we start counting all that silver and gold. Rubio is gonna have to come to terms with me first…”

Butcher whirled around and in his hand, Nenouf saw one of his long, thin knives. He knew that it had originally been used as a boning knife in his father’s shop and that the thing was sharp enough to shave with.

“…because, if not, then….” and Butcher held the knife close to his own throat, then slid it slowly to the side.

Nenouf understood what the bigger man meant and was very thankful that he had not been the one to receive the message from L’Anguille’s right hand man. For one thing, that man’s reputation as a cold blooded killer was well known, even more so than Butcher’s, and for the other, was the fact that Butcher could not stand the idea that anyone else was leading the way. Least of all being led by L’Anguille and his scary partner, Modest Klees.

The fat man caught up to the other, but not too closely, then they started off again down the dark alleyway where sewage lay piled up in building corners and where one could no longer tell the rest of the street from the gutters.

Dirty, all of it just so dirty, as was the thing they were about to do, Nenouf thought. A dirty deed, indeed.

Castang and Vinsou were waiting for them at the street corner opposite the tavern.

The two men were hulking figures, dressed as they were in great overcoats against the evening’s chill.

Nenouf knew, too, that those overcoats served to hide the heavy weapons the two brothers preferred. Sometimes nothing more than a simple logger-man’s maul, other times, veritable bludgeons fashioned to stove a man’s head in with a single blow. Something at which both of the big men excelled.

“Butcher,” one of them said. Nenouf could not be sure which. Neither of them moved their lips much when they spoke and their collars were upturned, hiding most of both their faces.
But a pair of dim blue eyes, the others, a dirty green, looked Nenouf up and down, then he heard one of them say, “Why bring little fatty?”

“Yeah,” said the other, “No reason he gets a share of the pickin’s, Butcher. Not when we’s the ones what do the hard part.”

“Shut yer traps, the both of you,” Butcher said with a growl, “Rubio sent Nenouf to let me know, that’s all. And, I’m the one who decides who gets a share.”

A pair of muddy blue eyes narrowed at those words and the silence that followed was chilling.

One of these days, those three, are going to have at it. But surely not tonight, as there’s bigger fish to fry, Nenouf thought.

“There’s bigger fish to fry, right?” he said, cracking a smile and hoping that they would not decide to butt heads right then and there.

“What’s fish got to do with it?”

Nenouf thought it might have been Vinsou who asked.

“Oh, that’s just a finger of speech,” the fat man replied matter-of-factly.

“What?” said Butcher, “No…it’s a figure of speech, Nenouf. A figure.”

“Are you sure, Butcher?” Nenouf asked, “I don’t see what math’s got to do with it. Besides I ain’t never been too good with math…all that figuring just makes my head hurt.

“Now a finger of speech makes more sense, right. Like it points the way to what the person means to say. You see?”

The two brothers appeared to nod their heads slightly at the fat man’s impeccable logic and Butcher grinned a brown-toothed smile.

“Yeah. Fine. Now let’s go see what this fellow’s about and maybe lend him a hand with his heavy purse.”

He nodded in the direction of the tavern, then continued, “Lighten the load, if you get my meaning, boys.”

“Oh, we get you, alright,” said a muffled voice.

Nenouf still was not sure which one of the brothers had spoken.

They’s like two peas in a pod, he thought, then smiled, thinking that particular phrase was a fine finger of speech, too.

Three men walked toward the tavern, their steps heavy and determined. Another man, rounder and shorter than the others, followed in their wake but not too closely, either.


Rubio shifted nervously on his stool. He had been sitting there for hours, waiting for Nenouf to get his message delivered to the rest of the Butcher’s Boys. He took a measured sip from his bowl of beer, grimacing at the bitterness he forced himself to swallow.

The tavern owner frowned every time he made a pass with his broom in front of Rubio. The place was dead that evening. Not a soul other than Rubio and the drunken fool across the room from him. A third person was in the room next to them, of that Rubio was sure. Only that room was left in the dark, used only when the tavern was full enough to warrant lighting a fire in the second hearth and the rest of the oil lanterns that smoked with a sickly sweet scent of rendered fat burning.

He had heard the creaking of a chair from the shadows there followed just after by a faint snoring.

Doubtless another drunk left to sleep it off in a back corner.

It did not matter, in any case. All that mattered to Rubio was the man across the room from him.

The drunken man hung his head over a deep pewter cup, his hair unkempt and falling down to cover his face. From time to time, he roused himself just enough to lift the cup for a swallow or two, or when he found that he had emptied the thing and forgotten that he had, he would signal for another without bothering to look up.

The tavern owner kept as close an eye on him as Rubio, though, and whenever the fellow stirred, he was sure to bustle over with a pitcher of red and fill that pewter cup to the brim.

The wine that was poured was no local brew. Whoever he was, the man had coin enough that the barman poured him only a pale red wine brought hundreds of leagues from the north. Not the sort of vintage that any local folk would ever pay for themselves.

Rubio was amazed that the barman even had any on stock. Although, he imagined it posed no problem for him to send someone to buy up all that could be found in the other local taverns.

The man’s coin gleamed bright silver from time to time and seemed to flow just as easily as the wine. That was the kind of coin that washed away problems like where to find good wine.

It was the kind of coin that men like Rubio followed, once he had been put on the scent with a message from the frightening Modest Klees.

None of the Butcher’s Boys had ever seen Klees. They knew him by reputation only. And that reputation spoke volumes about the man that not one of them would ever want to meet, despite all their bravado.

Some folk called him L’Anguille’s Poignard, the Eel’s Dagger, and from the stories told of him, even if only a small fraction of them were based upon the truth, then he was not someone they would ever want to cross.

Butcher stayed away from L’Anguille’s organization. Rubio could understand why. Their own little business got along well enough. A little blackmail here, some protection paid out there. Life and enterprise were relatively fruitful for all of them in the high mountain town of Haccia.
The community, itself, was the last outpost before the Ardoise mountains rose up in sheer spikes to form a natural barrier and frontier with the country that began upon their southern slopes.

In the region all roads, even the least cow path, ran to Haccia. In the high country, there was nowhere else to go.

Historically, people on religious pilgrimages had been part of the town’s beginnings. For over a thousand years, they retraced the footsteps of a sainted man, looking for another reason to count themselves among the faithful and all that walking meant that when, at last, they had reached the village that gradually grew into a large town perched just below where the trees gave up and sheer goat paths among craggy rocks took over, that meant hungry bellies.

The residents of Haccia discovered how little effort it required to part these pilgrims from their last bit of coin in exchange for a place beside a warm fire and a bowl of hot stew.
Later, when swarthy men from the southern slopes discovered how to preserve their hogs flesh, commerce in the northern regions’ mineral springs and the pink salt they found there anchored Haccia more firmly in place than any pilgrims ever could.

Salt and faith, it might have been the town’s motto. Only it would not be a phrase concerning the religious zeal driving people over dangerous mountain paths to chase after the ghost of a man long dead. Rather, it would be faith in that the salt would never run out and that the southerners should never find another source so near.

Rubio’s own father had been in the salt trade. The gambling and drink had done him in and the rest of the family with him. Their ancestral salt rights were lost in a game of dice, then his father lost himself headlong in a barrique of wine a few months later. They say drunks drown their sorrows. In his father’s case, it was in the literal sense when he was found with his feet in the air and the rest of him facedown inside an upturned cask.

Creditors were merciless fiends.

L’Anguille and his Dagger were the worst of these.

The irony of the situation was not lost upon Rubio. Here he was preparing to waylay a drunken rich man and it was thanks to L’Anguille and Modest Klees that it was him, and soon the rest of the Butcher’s Boys, and not some other rough folk about to make themselves rich. On the other hand, it was thanks to L’Anguille and his henchman that Rubio was seated there, a low scoundrel among scoundrels, instead of sitting before his own hearth, a comfortable home surrounding him and the family’s flourishing salt trade business to keep him there.

Worse still, Modest Klees would take at least three quarters of whatever they found remaining in the man’s purse. That was the part that ground Rubio most and would grind on Butcher even more.

Unless, they were to tell the Dagger that there was less than expected.

That was Rubio’s plan. A simple one, but one that should calm Butcher down once the blood stopped running and the rich man a’kicking. Paying out a percentage would sting, but it would surely be for far less than whatever they really found.

The tavern keeper passed by him again, sweeping with his straw broom where not a speck of dirt remained, frowning as ever down at Rubio.

He did not care. He had paid for his seat with a cracked earthenware bowl of local beer. Hard to drink, as bitter as tree roots. But it would do to keep him there in his rights until the rest of the gang came to keep him company.

Rubio was sure it would not be long until they did. Then, in short order, they would have a drink of that pale red wine for themselves and something told him the coin that had paid for it would wash at least some of the bitterness away.

The pale red color shimmered just inches from the end of his nose. He looked deeply inside his pewter cup and if he strained his eyes he could almost see her there in the bloody reflection of the wine.

He could remember how sweetly she had smiled when they had finally reached the summit and the southern passes that lay before them.

There were no trees at that altitude and even he had been out of breath, but mountain flowers ran through low grasses in every direction. The sight of them was like breathing air that no one else had ever breathed before. The purity of it invigorating.

He would have like to pick one for her, to see it tucked behind an ear, framed by her dark, flowing locks.

He would have liked to see her smile just once, if only once, for him and what he did for her.
Instead, she smiled at the valley running away from her to what she said was her future. And away from what she thought was her past.

“Melisse,” he said, “It is not too late to turn back.”

It was not the first time he had said those same words.

He had said them when she insisted they leave Licharre. Those same words lingered between them over the past two months as her desire to part grew more and more evident, until, at last, Melisse seemed unable to stand it any longer and the two of them headed south once more.

He had said the words again as they began the long trek up and up through foothills that grew ever more rude the further along they went.

And each time, her response had been the same. He did not know why he thought it might change now that they had passed over the worst of the mountains.

She turned to him and the smile upon her lips was fading away. Instead, he saw anger broiling upon her brow and in her deep brown eyes, red flame flickered.

He glanced down and saw fine wisps of smoke rising from where her feet touched the ground. Her hands were clenched into tight fists and from time to time, a tendril of fire would slip from her grasp to coil in the air, as if hungry, searching for something to burn.

“Do you see this?” she hissed at him, “I can barely control it. You and your badgering about going back north to clear my name…it angers me that someone still tries to make my choices for me, Marechal.

“And you know what happens when I get angry.”

He had given her his name and still she refused to call him by it. The scarred man stood there, forcing himself to not take a step back from her and the wild power slipping through her fingers.

“My name is Etienne,” he said, “As you well know. I would not have told you if I did not wish you to call me by name. My real name.”

His reproach appeared to penetrate the haze of defiance in her eyes.

Her brows came unfurrowed, then, slowly, she unclasped her hands and there was no flame, only the pink skin of a hale and beautiful woman.

“Yes, you did,” she replied, her mouth softening from the hard lines of determination of just a moment earlier.

She turned away from him, as if to scan the valley far below, then said, “And you know why I don’t call you that…Marechal. You try to bridge the gap between us with your own name. But I tell you once again that I won’t close that distance.”

The Marechal thought he saw her shudder, yet the wind was still.

“It isn’t safe.”

He heard some memory in those few words, something that weighed heavily upon the young woman’s mind.

“As you say,” he replied, “And as I have said, I would take that risk.”

She stood straighter then, her back rigid.

“But you’re wrong to do so. Whatever magic keeps you young and heals your wounds is no match for what burns inside me.”

Then, lower, almost in a whisper, she said, “I can feel it, as I have before. It wants to burn you to the ground…”

He sighed at the resignation in her voice.

“The truth and your freedom lie in the direction of House Perene, not there where you believe accusations of murder will not follow you,” he said.

“As it is, these strange murders of men skinned alive have followed you even here, Melisse. I do not believe that the demon we encountered in Licharre was destroyed, and, above all, whoever sent it certainly was not.

“Two months of calm have gone by, but do not be fooled. You are being hunted still and not by me. Further, these murders resemble too closely something I encountered a long time ago and there is no telling what might happen when the force behind them finally chooses to end the chase.”

He did not continue on to say what he thought next. That the young woman before him was undoubtedly the prey.

“In any case, I cannot follow you. I have a task yet before me and where you say your path lies would only take me further away from it.”

Still refusing to look at him, Melisse said, “What real good would come of my returning to the north?  All the southern lands lie before me and I can lose myself in them and put myself far from whatever danger you believe looms in my shadow.”

“Ah, but there is where you are mistaken, Melisse,” he replied,  “In their essential meaning, your problems are no different than any other’s in that they will follow you wherever you go.

“Allow me to explain.”

She made no sign that he should continue, nor did she that he should stop. Only her back remained just as rigid as her apparent determination to run away.

“My belief is that the encounter you had in the forest the night of young Perene’s murder has somehow gone awry. It is possible, even quite likely, that the being who seduced you never intended that you survive.

“Otherwise, why allow you to see that it took the guise of the slops boy? A person you could easily recognize and who, doubtless, has since been found murdered and skinned like all the rest.

“And that reminds me of something from long ago. A time when monsters masqueraded in the skins of men. A base, yet effective, form of espionage. But those creatures were never so clever as to devise such a plan on their own.

“I think that something, someone, guided them in their efforts. Then, abruptly, it disappeared and took its knowledge with it, putting a sudden end to the slip skinned spies in our midst.

“Disappeared, that is, until now. For whatever reason, I believe it has emerged once again to mischief and as I swore so long ago, I will stop at nothing to destroy it.”
Despite the flames that she held within her, Melisse’s voice turned cold as ice.

“So, what you’re saying is that this really isn’t about me?” she said, “All your words that you could take care of me are only a pretext for keeping me where I am of use to you, Marechal.

“You desire that I stay not out of affection for me, but for your affection of the hunt. And I would be the bait.”

“You misunderstand,” he said, “When I was sent away to root out the goblins wearing men’s skins, I had a lover I was forced to leave behind. She meant everything to me and by the time I returned from my mission, she was gone.

“In all my long years, it has ever been thus. I pass through time alone while those around me live out their lives then fall to dust. There have been women in my life, but never do they tarry at my side. Fate has always deprived me of that kind of happiness. Instead, I walk in solitude and remain faithful to the oath I swore when I learned of what happened to the last woman I ever truly loved and to whom I never had the opportunity to tell.

“I shall not rest until I find the one responsible, the one who forced me away from her side.”

The Marechal’s voice shook as he continued.

“I ask you to stay because I do care, and because I think the magic in your possession means that you could walk through time with me. That when my task is done, I would no longer see my future as a wasteland of solitude with no one to care for and no one who cares for me.”

Melisse hung her head as she heard him speak.

“Marechal. You could be right. I don’t know. Will I now live on as you do with the force that burns within me? It could be so. But you must understand, I am a bonfire only waiting for the spark to bring the blaze upon all who are near to me.

“Even,” she took a step further away from him, “Even those who could matter to me. Very much.”

He had not seen her face again as she walked resolutely forward to take up the trail that led down the far side of the mountain to foreign lands below.

And as always, it was to the back of a woman that the man said his silent farewell, before he, too, turned to return the way he had come. Only, as he walked his steps grew heavier, his back more hunched and he saw no more flowers nor anything else that might have been reason for smiling.

His side of the mountain was one of cold truths and hard rock, unforgiving, endless…and lonesome.

The wine glimmered in its pewter cup, tiny waves growing from its center that slipped to the edges to rebound and confound themselves, thus hiding the reason that there were any waves at all.

The man sighed and made no sign that he had heard anything as several men came through the tavern door to rejoin the one at the bar.

The wine shimmered and he simply wondered if its flavor would be less bitter for the salt.

Rubio heard the tavern door creak, then the dark figures of big men came looming into the tavern. The door nearly closed behind them, when a fourth man, small, rotund and as breathless as ever, slipped inside and said in a rush, “Rubio. I brought ‘em like you wanted. Just like you said.”

The barkeeper frowned and was about to open his mouth when Butcher cut him off.
“Best find a reason to go outside now. I think the back alley is probably a lot more interesting than it used to be. For the next few minutes, anyway.”

The barkeeper’s mouth hung open for a moment, then he closed it again, before mumbling something that sounded like, “Someone had better pay for the mess is all I’m sayin’.”

Then he left without looking back.

Nenouf was still grinning in Rubio’s general direction as Butcher leaned close to him, about to say something into the man’s ear.

Before he could utter a word, one of the big men…it might have been Castang…said, “My Molly’s got oxtail simmering at the hearth. I h’aint got time for any more discussin’ when my belly’s empty.”

He shrugged his coat to one side and hefted what looked like a thick axe handle in his hands. It was missing the axe head, though. Instead, what appeared to be at least twenty heavy iron nails were driven through the business end, making of it a kind of crude morning star.

It made an odd whistling sound as he walked forward to swing it hard into the air where the rich man’s head had been just an instant before. But rather than stove the drunken man’s head in, it slammed into the table.

Nenouf watched, the smile still on his face fading as the scene played out. Castang, or maybe it was Vinsou, was pulling hard on his axe handle, but the spikes driven through it had been embedded fast in the heavy table top where the rich man had been sitting.

A man who was now lying on the floor with his own foolish grin on his face. Nenouf was sure it was only drunk’s luck, but his head had lolled to one side just as the hard wood handle had slammed down, then overbalanced, the man had tumbled from his chair to the floor.

Butcher looked like he was about to shout something to Castang when Nenouf saw the drunken man roll over like a fish out of water. As he did it, Nenouf caught a flash of two things.

One was a terrible scar that ran down one side of the man’s face in jagged lines like a bolt of lightning cast from boiled over skies. The other was the shine of bright metal in the rich man’s hands.

It has only been for an instant, but it looked like he had meant to roll in the opposite direction. Instead of trying to get away, the fool had flopped forward, toward Castang instead, and brought the table down on top of himself.

The big man standing over him was still tugging on his weapon when the table started to fall, then Nenouf heard him yelp, then say, “Ow!”

It was like watching a logger man’s tree begin to tip and fall. Castang…or Vinsou, it might have been…had flailed backward to avoid tumbling over the table collapsing before him. But as he did, he had let out a sound that was at odds with his size, the hurt sound of a little boy, as if he had been stung by a hornet.

For some reason, he could not stop his backward motion, then Castang was falling over and as he did, he reached toward his ankle with an anguished look on his face.
“Owwww! Garn! He done unhinged me foot,” the big man shrieked.

His brother looked right, then left, unsure which way to turn. Butcher’s eyes were narrowed at the improbable situation, but no orders were forthcoming.

Then, Vinsou was rushing toward his sibling lying on the floor, his own coat pulled to the side and a thick iron bar in both his hands.

Nenouf watched, his eyes wide, and as the second brother rushed forward, Nenouf shrank back behind the bar. He heard a terrible crash and popped his head up from behind the bar to see the second brother lying beside the first, his hand clapped to his throat and blood streaming through his fingers.

“Vinsou…Vinsou!” the first brother howled as he rolled from one side to the other, but even Nenouf could see the man was done for.

And over both the brothers stood that scarred man, staggering as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. In one hand, he held what looked to Nenouf like a tiny, thin sword, not even a third as long as it should have been.

The drunken fool had somehow managed to put both brothers down, while he stood there close to falling over again. His free hand was at his belt, fumbling at a full sized sword still in its scabbard upon his hip.

Only his head kept tipping down and Nenouf saw that the man could barely keep his eyes open.

In a low, calm voice, Butcher said, “Rubio. Two paces to my left. We move in slow and steady.”

Rubio nodded as he got up, his own battered blade sliding free from its sheath while Butcher settled his pair of heavy cleavers in his fists.

Nenouf knew that things were about to go to hell then and there.

But before they did, the drunken fool had something to say.

His voice was slurred and uneven, but he said, “She left me. After all that I did for her. After all that I would have done. She left.”

His feet slid apart, then he narrowly caught himself from falling down again as he managed to place one foot wide before the other and turn himself to the side.

To Nenouf, it looked as if he wanted to address the wall off to the side of him and that, maybe, he had even forgotten the two men advancing upon him, slowly, yet surely.
He’s going to get himself butchered good and proper like that, Nenouf thought. He don’t even know enough to face those boys coming straight on.

Nenouf shook his head. The man might have had the coin to pay himself a pair of pretty blades, but standing sideways like that when two hard men were coming to take him down had only one likely outcome. And a drunk’s luck only runs so far.

With an awkward jerk, the man managed at last to free his sword from the scabbard, coming within a hair’s breadth of cracking himself on the jaw with its pommel as he did. Then, he tilted back before slumping forward, the sword’s point driving into the inn’s wooden floor as he leaned on it like an old man upon a cane.

“For my own good, she said,” the man mumbled, his hair falling down over his eyes.
Rubio was grinning widely as he eased himself forward. Butcher kept his eyes narrowed, flicking his gaze from the scarred man’s hands up to the face hidden largely by unkempt hair and shadow.

“Did you see that scar, Rubio?” Butcher said.

Nenouf watched as Rubio nodded, then replied, “He seen a battle or two, this one. Veteran, maybe.”

Butcher nodded then said, “That’s right. And he took out the tendon in Castang’s heel, drunk as he is.”

“So what do we do, Butch?” Rubio asked.

“We go in at the same time…exactly the same time,” was the reply.

The drunken man’s head hung lower still, then he mumbled, “She didn’t wish to hurt me. But no one can. No one.”

Rubio froze at these words, but with a scathing look from Butcher, he kept moving.
Then the two men burst forward, their weapons raised.

Nenouf shuddered, thinking he did not want to see what was about to happen, but he was frozen in place, fascination pinning him behind the bar, unable to look away.
Rubio’s sword slashed in to strike first. Or, it should have.

But without looking up, the man’s left arm raised the smaller sword up and with a slight flick of his wrist, sent Rubio’s blade skittering to the side while Rubio followed it, his own momentum carrying him forward hard.

Butcher had rushed in at the same moment, but as Rubio struck out with his long blade to have it neatly deflected to one side, Butcher dropped down into a crouch, his cleavers slicing the air in sweeping curves that would take the drunken man’s leading leg off at the knee.

The arc of those heavy blades meant for breaking bone and cleaving flesh was interrupted before they ever got there.

As Rubio’s sword was slapped aside, he could not stop his forward motion, coming in close to the man who then took a sliding half step backward as he struck Rubio hard behind the ear with the butt of his main-gauche. Rubio’s eyes were already rolling back in his head as he fell which was probably a mercy, because he fell hard just in front of Butcher and his cleavers.

The first one took Rubio in under the jaw and came crashing out from the tip of his chin in an explosion of bone and blood. The second landed dead center in the unfortunate man’s forehead, sinking in deep.

Butcher let go of the cleaver buried in his business partner’s brains while holding on to the other as he rolled to the side before springing up to his feet, a long boning knife already in his free hand.

Castang lowed like a lost cow from the floor while his brother lay still beside him, his hand having fallen away from the gash at his throat, the blood no longer flowing.

Butcher grinned his brown toothed smile and said, “Good enough. You helped narrow the split down to one man and that suits me just fine. Only I’m not like those three and you’re drunk as hell.”

The man opposite him did not seem to notice as Butcher edged further to one side, putting himself almost at the man’s back.

Then Butcher burst forward, his boning knife weaving from right to left, while he held the cleaver high and ready to lop off a hand at the wrist if he could.

Nenouf did not notice that his own mouth was held in a perfect circle of surprise. Only one of the Butcher’s Boys was still standing and it was Butcher himself.

It should not have been possible and what was worse was that they had been done in by a drunken man.

What kind of unholy terror might he be when he’s sober, thought Nenouf, knowing full well that if he knew what was good for him, he should already be well on his way out the back door of the tavern.

But what he saw next kept him right where he was.

Butcher pounded forward just as the scarred man stumbled and pivoted at the same time. The sword that served him as a cane came with him, then it punched down again, only this time the point landed directly in Castang’s thigh.

The big man lying on the floor screamed a high pitched scream and as he instinctively clapped his hands to the wound, Nenouf saw the ends of his fingers fly away at the same time the scarred man ripped the sword back up and into the air.

Blood squirted up in an arc from Castang’s leg and Nenouf knew what that meant. A half inch to one side or the other and it would have been only a flesh wound. Instead, that drunken man had somehow punched through the artery in the big man’s thigh and only red hot iron could save Castang then.

Butcher’s boning knife whistled as it cut the air, its path about to carry it to land between two of the scarred man’s ribs, probably to drive deep into his liver.

But, the man staggered back again, and Butcher’s blade only tasted fine cotton fabric as it licked cleanly through the man’s shirt.

Butcher kept going and spun round in a roundhouse circle, his cleaver cutting the air, but the scarred man had stumbled to one side as he raised his long bladed sword at last.

The cleaver struck it hard and Nenouf saw sparks flash as cold metal struck metal.
The heavy cleaver in Butcher’s hand pulled him after it as it ran along the long sword blade. Nenouf saw his eyes go wide, then the short sword flickered in the scarred man’s other hand.

Somehow he had twisted around, keeping his balance when he should have fallen. Instead, he had turned with all the fluidity of a dancer, his sidelong stance allowing him to move unhindered.

And in a shining flash, Nenouf saw the tip of that short blade pop out the far side of Butcher’s neck, then disappear again just as quickly.

The drunken man stumbled back against a chair, then sat down heavily while Butcher staggered upright from being bent over only to fall back down again, letting go at last the cleaver and the boning knife. A few seconds later there was a strange drumming sound. It was one of Butcher’s feet jittering on the floorboards then eventually it went as still as the rest of him.

Silence fell as the blood ran.

Silence remained when the blood stopped.

Then the scarred man said, “No one can….”

Nenouf shrunk down behind the bar, his arms hugging his sides tightly, barely daring to breathe. He was still trying to work out just what happened and how it had when he heard a faint sound from the darkened room next to the bar, there where no one should have been.

“Au contraire, Monsieur,” said a voice from a darkened corner of the tavern.

“Say what you will, and I am forced to agree that your skill with a blade is astonishing, but you quite obviously can be hurt. The woman of whom you speak, you say she left you for fear of causing you injury.

“But, it is evident that in doing so, she has wounded you more gravely than any sword could.”

The scarred man stood up when he heard that voice. He stood there, looking vacantly down at the floor, then swayed upon his feet before reaching out to steady himself upon a wooden beam running from the floor to the ceiling.

“She left me…after all that I did for her….”

The man who had come out of the shadows nodded, his face quite serious.

“Nevertheless, you have acquitted yourself admirably over these…” he nudged Rubio’s inert body with the tip of his leather boot, “…these vermin.

“And for that, my employer would like to speak with you. I do believe he would like to procure your services.”

Steel grey eyes lifted up from staring at the floor as the man fumbled an instant then, at last, managed to sheathe his sword in its scabbard.

“My services?”

“Yes, of course. You, dear sir, have talents that will interest him greatly. In the capacity of a dispatcher of problems, naturally.”

The big man looked at the other, but it was more as if he looked through him, seeing other vistas and other faces. The sorts of faces that slipped ever away from him and into the distance as he stood still. Alone.

“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Modest Klees, and my employer is none other than Cuixart Bleu, sometimes referred to by the locals with the unsavory epithet, L’Anguille.

“He is the kind of man who is always in need of those who specialize and, most importantly, excel in the fine art of wielding arms. I am such a one, as are you.”
The grey eyed man made no sign, nor did he move, apparently waiting for something.

“He needs killers, sir. And what a killer you are….”

Modest Klees gestured toward the door and the two of them went out. But not before the big man stopped, turning around to throw a small handful of silver to the floor, and mumbled, “For the mess….”

Get The Marechal Chronicles: Volume IV, The Chase at Amazon or Barnes & Noble

The Next Installment of the Marechal Chronicles

Dear readers,

I know many of you are anxiously waiting for the next part of the Marechal Chronicles, and for that, I thank you for your patience.

This post is to inform you that I am currently at work on Volume IV–The Chase and am concentrating solely on this story and none other.

I have also made a decision that the Chronicles will finish with a total of five parts, rather than six.  What I had originally thought of as parts four and five will be published in a single, longer volume.  I think this will serve you, the readers, and the story itself better.

Again, I thank you for your patience.  My hope (although I cannot make any promises) is to have completed and published Volume IV-The Chase this January (2013).

To be sure you will know when it is ready, please subscribe for updates from me.  The link for it is just there, in the left hand margin of the page.

Take care, all of you,


Edited to add: I want to remind those of you who enjoyed The Marechal Chronicles that there is a prequel story concerning the hero’s past and that it will provide a richer understanding of the Marechal himself and the mystery that surrounds him. (This will, in turn, be a focus of the upcoming installments, as well.)

The Goblin Between Her Thighs

“An army captain with a mysterious scar is torn from the battle front and from his lover in this story of espionage, body thieves and devious eroticism.

The legendary Goblin War rages while a soldier’s own identity slips away from him in his struggle between his forgotten past and the woman who loves him. Action, intrigue, and intense sexuality…all this and more awaits between these pages.

This is an erotic stand-alone story of 11,000 words, but also a prequel to the events recounted in the ongoing series, The Marechal Chronicles by Aimélie Aames.”

An excerpt:

They were alone. At least, as alone as could be expected in the middle
of an army. One that was camped under a pouring rain at the edge of a
dread forest.

Sounds of coughing, of armor creaking and of mud sucking at soldiers’
feet as they tramped by infiltrated the canvas tent, but the man and the
woman within felt at peace and far removed from the corpse strewn
battlefield of just a few days before.

It was a soldier’s life, those few moments stolen in desperation until
the next maneuver found them thrust back into the living sea of military
men and women crashing wave after wave upon the rocks that were their
enemy, the goblin hoard of old.

Black blood and ichor had stained the hands of both of them. Hands that
now touched one another in tenderness as the man brought his lips to
drink at those of the woman.

She moved under him, her body as naked as his, not in denial, but in motions of desire and welcome.

The kiss lingered upon their lips as they broke contact and he dipped
his head to run his mouth along her neck, drifting as light as a feather
to behind her ear where he knew she was especially vulnerable to his

Her hair was of steel, where his showed no sign of grey. But, her body
was trim and muscular, the body of a career soldier who took every
aspect of her metier to its logical extreme.

He could read discipline in her least gesture, even in the smile she
gave him as he pulled back from nuzzling her neck. It was why he was so
drawn to her. That she was a mature woman was part of it, as well.

He did not remember his mother, and only very little of his father, and
supposed that therein lay some echo of the missing puzzle pieces of his

“Alexandre, I need you inside me,” she whispered, her tone as direct as ever.
He replied, “And, who asks? My general, or my lover?”

“Both…neither…only make love to me, soldier.” Her voice rose as she opened her thighs to him….

He dropped his head down to her heavy breasts and took a dark nipple
into his mouth. She tasted of lye soap, the best one could expect in a
simple life spent marching from one battlefield to the next, most often
passing weeks at a time with no chance to wash, much less bathe.

That she was now a general changed little in the way of privileges,
although the two of them would not deny in that moment, a general’s
personal quarters, a small tent meant just for her was welcome enough.

He ran his hands down her body. Her skin was soft, despite her hard life.

“Now, Alexandre,” she urged him….

It is currently available at the following online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance Ebooks and Smashwords.

The Thrilling Final Episode of Her Billionaire, Her Wolf–These Cunning Bones is Now Available!


, , , , , , , , ,

These Cunning Bones

The Final Episode of Her Billionaire, Her Wolf:

These Cunning Bones (A Paranormal BDSM Erotic Romance)

Sara smiled at him, then, despite her happiness, she shuddered.

After coming to her in the barn, someone had gathered up the remnants of her clothes, while Braze covered her in a trench coat. She had kept it, belting it tightly around her, but the cool air of the evening had found its way within. Sara shivered again.

Amber eyes narrowed as he saw her shaking.

“I know what you need.”

Braze led her back down into the apartment below, then drew her after him to the marvelous bathroom.

Steam billowed as he turned on every jet in the italian style shower. But, he found her through the quickly growing fog and his hands undid the belt at Sara’s waist.

She leaned against him, wishing that she were stronger, that she could manage on her own. Knowing that she could not.

You are what I need,” she whispered against his neck.

Then the coat fell to the floor and he gently nudged her into the shower.

Sara stood there a very long time, letting the water do its work. And when she came out at last, her skin and hair were clean, while stains of another kind remained.

Please forgive, me.

She went to him in the bedroom. Sara climbed across a mattress that seemed to go on for miles until, at last, she snuggled in close to the man lying there, waiting for her and her alone.

“You must be exhausted,” he murmured, then kissed her forehead.

“I am…I mean, I was. But the shower helped a lot. You helped a lot,” she said.

She nuzzled in closer to him then brought her hand to his thigh and slid it along until she held him. His member began to grow heavier under her touch.

“Are you certain, Sara?” he asked, with a mouth that shifted between a half smile and a frown for concern of her.

“I am,” she replied, then letting go of him, she turned until she rested upon his chest and looked deeply into his eyes.

“Do you remember when you told me that you would make me regret you and that it wouldn’t be for just once?”

“Yes, of course,” he said.

“Well, you’re not the only one. Ok?”

She hesitated, searching for her words.

“I would like you to punish me…Master. I know I will disappoint you. I won’t have any choice.”

She lowered her tone and continued, “And for that, I deserve to be punished.”

His smile was gone. Braze only looked at Sara, his eyes unblinking, before saying at last, “What are you trying to tell me, Sara? Are you hurt? Did something happen that you have not told me?”

“No,” she said, looking away from him, desperate to hold back the sadness that threatened to overwhelm her…a sadness for what might very well overwhelm them both.
“No, nothing like that. I just…I just need it.”

She brought her eyes back to him and there he saw twin tracks of tears upon her cheeks as she said, “Please.”

Again, he was silent for a time. Then he said, “I understand…little slave.”

Sara sighed when she heard those words. Little slave.

Oh, God help me.

With efficient, self assured movements, Braze wasted no time in tying Sara facedown and spreadeagled across the bed.

Only instead of a coarse farm rope, he used soft velvet clad cords and his touch was tender as he brought them around her wrists.

He cinched them down firmly, but not so far as to chafe against where that other rope had left its mark.

Then he was on his knees between her legs and she felt him bend down to place a hand on each side of her back. His mouth traced along her spine until he came to where the hunting knife had cut her.

Gently, ever so gently, he kissed her there and Sara felt herself growing moister with each of his movements.

This magnificent man, capable of terrible, beastly violence, had come to worship at her temple. The thought of it, that he did it for her, that he would punish her for crimes she had yet to commit, only made her juices flow more quickly.

He brought his hands to her hips then pulled upward. With almost no effort, he lifted her haunches into the air, then set her back down upon bent knees, her bottom up and fully available.

“Punishment is the request,” he said, his tone turning ever deeper, “And so punishment shall be dealt out.”

His hand struck her without warning.

The entire bed rocked with it and Sara felt the delicious sting rip across her buttocks. Her flesh vibrated under his touch demanding that he do it again.

And, he did.

Sara moaned as he struck her bottom, his open hand landing what felt like everywhere at once. He paddled her for all her wrongdoing and for all of what would come.

It was what she wanted. It was what she desired.

Sara sought absolution at the hands of her master and he did not disappoint….

Part 4 of Her Billionaire, Her Wolf:
In the end, there is only darkness. And in that darkness, a lone man stands while evil attempts to destroy the tenuous bonds between him and his long estranged brother.

Between them both, a woman hangs in the balance, a pawn played by more than one side in a deadly game that could cost them all their lives.

That man holds a hallowed blade against the monsters who assail them…and in the end, nothing is less certain than his triumph against the creatures of shadow.

And when evil forces tear away all facade and charade, what remains are a man and a woman, all secrets unveiled.

Their savage passion, their animal desire, is the strength that drives them both.

But can they survive their own betrayals? Can they rise above guilt and blame to save one another?

Find out in this, the shocking conclusion to the series, Her Billionaire, Her Wolf.

Now Available at the following online retailers:


All Romance Ebooks

Barnes & Noble



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 70 other followers