Archive for the ‘Historical Fiction’ Category

NEW RELEASE

A WAITRESS FOR WADE

A Waitress for Wade (Mail-Order Mama Series Book 7) by [Susan Horsnell]

Blurb

Wade Johnson is a man who runs a cattle ranch, five miles from the small town of Alexandar, Colorado. He’s struggling to raise three children alone after losing his wife in an influenza epidemic two years earlier.
Annalise Hudson is a woman happy in life. She works long hours in the family diner which she inherited when her mama and daddy were killed in a freak accident.
Wade’s eldest daughter thinks it’s about time he remarried, but he’s having none of her suggestion to advertise for a mail-order bride.
Annalise is forced to make a decision she wasn’t ready for when her world is tipped upside down.
Can these two make a life together when their meeting is based on deceit?

Buy Links

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

AMAZON AU

AMAZON CA

ALSO AVAILABLE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED

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THE ALL NEW MAIL-ORDER MAMA SERIES

A Multi-Author Historical Series

 

All books are either live, or available for pre-order at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08QV9DPSL

Also available in Kindle Unlimited.

These books share a common theme – a family member or friend has posted an advertisement for an unsuspecting single father. Let the fun begin!

Book 1 – AN ANGEL FOR ADAM – Teresa Ives Lilly

Book 2 – A QUILTER FOR QUINT – Linda Carroll-Bradd

Book 3 – A PIANIST FOR PREACHER – Linda Baten-Johnson

Book 4 – A BLUESTOCKING FOR BRAD – Angela Lain

Book 5 – A COOK FOR CALEB – Elissa Strati

Book 6 – A BAKER FOR BEAR – Kimberly Grist

Book 7 – A WAITRESS FOR WADE – Susan Horsnell

Book 8 – A LAWYER FOR LINTON – Zina Abbott

Book 9 – A DOCTOR FOR DOUG – Allyson Carter

Book 10 – A HEALER FOR HEATH – Kandice E. Geddes

Book 11 – A HORSEWOMAN FOR HARLAN – Barbara Goss

Book 12 – AN AU PAIR FOR AUSTIN – Lynn A. Coleman

Book 13 – A MAID FOR MASON – Regina Walker

Book 14 – A COWGIRL FOR CURTIS – Marlene Bierworth

Book 15 – A BRIDE FOR BENJAMIN – Rhonda Gibson

Book 16 – A SCOUT FOR SKYLER – Heather Blanton

Book 17 – A GAMBLER FOR GREY – Kandice E. Geddes

Book 18 – A CAREGIVER FOR CASH – Annee Jones

 

Title: Kingdom of Shadows and Dust
Author: Sherry D. Ficklin
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Cover Designer: Trif Book Designs
Publication Date: September 14th, 2021
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb:
A voiceless captive of tradition, driven to defend her kingdom. 

As the king’s only daughter, Ava was supposed to be many things, meek, submissive, and above all, silent. While she dreams of fighting alongside the armies of Ankara, she’s forced to hide her identity behind a veil. 

It seems her prayers are answered when fate intervenes, allowing Ava to sneak away and join the battle. Yet the tides of war turn on her, leaving the young beauty defeated… her hopes shattered. Her only chance at salvation is Callan, a mysterious black wolf willing to risk everything by hiding her away among his kind. 

But there are some dangers far more ominous than the snapping jaws of a wolf. 

Ripped away from the brave Turnskins, Ava is imprisoned by the beguiling Shadow King who fills her head with promises of peace and a haze of passion. Forced to choose between family, the bond she shares with Callan, and the handsome king, Ava finds herself torn between duty and desire. 

When sacrifice is required to save all she holds dear, will Ava accept the crushing demands of taking the crown? Or follow her heart to the forbidden touch she desperately craves?

Sherry is the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.

Author Links:

Facebook | Website | Twitter | Amazon

Goodreads Bookbub | Instagram

★✩★ RELEASE BOOST ★✩★

DARE TO BE A DUCHESS

By SAPNA BHOG

Genre: Regency Historical Romance

Trope: Multicultural | Interracial Romance

Hosted by DS Promotions

BLURB

He’s a powerful duke. She’s his uncle’s ward. They have forever been at war, until one night, one masquerade, and one kiss…

Lara Ramsay is no stranger to scandal. As the orphaned daughter of a British colonel and his beloved Indian wife, whispers follow her everywhere. Not even the protection of the formidable Duke of Wolverton, a man she can’t stand, keeps the gossips at bay.

The audacious Lara has driven Tristan Wentworth, The Duke of Wolverton, to distraction since the day his uncle took her in—and he’s quite certain doing so is her favorite pastime. After catching her and his younger sister at a salacious masquerade, he’s had enough scandal and issues a marriage ultimatum: find a husband within six months or one will be chosen for her.

Unfortunately, no one in the ton appeals to her. Except, perhaps, the duke himself. The battle of wills has only just begun, and when Lara kisses him, their fate is sealed.

Sometimes even the most proper duke needs to break the rules to win the heart of the woman he loves…

Purchase links

AMAZON US

BARNES & NOBLE

KOBO

AMAZON CA

AMAZON UK

AMAZON AU

Title: Frosted

Author: M.C. Frank

Series: Regency Retold (2) standalone

Release date: February 20th 2021

Hardcover: 400 pages

Genre/Categories: Regency Romance, Historical Fiction, Fairytale & Folklore

Can two people hate each other more than these two?

She has a heart of stone. He is the notorious pirate every lady swoons for.
They have vowed never to meet again.

Captain Timothée Vaughn
Heart: Broken
Face: Gorgeous
Tone: Acidic
Pirate: Yes, he is
Marital Status: Forced into an engagement
Willing to: Break his own arm to escape his wedding tomorrow.

Lady Stella DeWinter:
Heart: Frosted
Face: Angelic but sad
Tone: Silent
Secrets: Many, but one in particular. A very dark one indeed.
Marital Status: Jilted Captain Vaughn right before their wedding, five years ago.
Willing to: Do anything to meet Timothée one last time.

Question: Why? (on earth)

Meeting place: The Frosted Ball.

What follows: Chaos. Noisy ballrooms. Starry skies. White flurries. Hungry kisses. Haughty stares. Frozen lakes. Shaking breaths. The truth. Finally.

Frosted is a heart-wrenching romance about a pirate and an ice-cold lady who seem to have hated each other for years, inspired by winter-themed fairytales like The Snow Queen and The Steadfast Tin Soldier. It is set in a witty, glittering Regency world made up of a little bit of Jane Austen, a little bit of Georgette Heyer, and a lot of a modern heart yearning for romance, passion and a tall gentleman with a smoldering gaze. This is a broken tale of beauty, dark secrets and love lost.

Frosted is the new enemies-to-lovers Regency novel that will melt your heart.

Recommended for fans of: Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Bridgertons Netflix show, enemies to lovers, second chance romance, dashing pirates, fairytale retellings, Frozen, Kdrama, Timothée Chalamet, Emma 2020 movie, light academia, books with disability rep.

CLICK HERE FOR EBOOK

SOCIAL LINKS

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★✩★ DUET RELEASE ★✩★

Nursing the Soul Duet

Gaige Book 1

Brayden Book 2

by SUSAN HORSNELL

Hosted by DS PR Services

GAIGE

Purchase Links

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Available in Kindle Unlimited

BLURB:

Dr. Gaige Adams is a surgeon at a large hospital in Charleston, he is lauded for his brilliance and ability to save lives. But all is not as it seems with the troubled man.

Amelia Cox is a nurse, posted to the same large hospital after completing her training. She is down to earth, independent and not afraid to take on any challenge thrown her way.

When she discovers Gaige is floundering, and doubting his ability to continue on in the medical field, she steps in and offers her help.

Will Gaige emerge from the darkness he has been trapped in for years, or is Amelia losing her heart to a man destined to always be crippled by grief?

Originally published as A Nurse for Gaige in the Nursing the Heart Multi-Author Series

BRAYDEN

Purchase Links

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Available in Kindle Unlimited

BLURB:

Genevieve Masters, Ginny to her friends, has achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.

Following training in Baltimore at the Baltimore School of Nursing, she secures a position caring for children at The Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.

It is here she meets the handsome, but troubled, Dr. Brayden Jenkins.

Can Ginny break down the carefully constructed walls surrounding Brayden’s heart, or is he destined to remain alone and bitter?

Originally published as A Nurse for Brayden in the Nursing the Heart Romance Multi-Author Series.

 

 

 

 

****PRE-ORDER NOW****

THE LOST LETTERS OF PLAYFAIR STREET

Author: Michelle Montebello
Cover Design: Kris Dallas Design
Publication Date: 2nd December 2020
Genre: 20th Century Historical Romance/Historical Mystery

BLURB

A lover’s game. A chest of clues.
Come find me. I’ll be waiting…
1929: On the night of her engagement to austere banker Floyd Clark, Charlotte Greene meets enigmatic Sydney Harbour Bridge engineer, Alexander Young. Their encounter is brief, but their attraction instant.

Alex invites Charlotte to play a game with him, one of daring clues and secret meeting places. She accepts and they embark on a thrilling lover’s chase across the city.

But with her arranged marriage to Floyd looming, will she have the strength to let Alex go?

Present Day: Paige Westwood is helping her boss establish a publishing company in his newly-purchased Playfair Street house in The Rocks, Sydney. In the attic, she discovers a chest of old clues that lead the reader on a journey across the city.

Paige contacts the former owner, Ryan Greene, who explains the clues belonged to his great-aunt Charlotte, who once lived in the house, but who mysteriously disappeared in 1929.

Together, they follow Charlotte and Alex’s clues to unravel a fascinating tale of lies and intrigue, of two lovers bound by hope, but also by deceit. Can they solve the mystery of Charlotte’s disappearance or has all hope been lost to the past?

BUY LINKS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Montebello is a writer from Sydney, Australia where she lives with her husband and two children. She is the internationally bestselling author of The Quarantine Station, Beautiful, Fragile and the Belle Series.

Her books have won numerous awards. Most recently The Quarantine Station and Beautiful, Fragile were shortlisted for the 2019 Australian Romance Readers Association Awards for Favourite Historical Fiction and Favourite Contemporary Romance. She was also shortlisted for Favourite Australian Author of the Year.

When Michelle is not writing, she has a keen passion for reading, tennis and travel.

AUTHOR LINKS

Website

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads

Newsletter

 

Title: With Shield and Ink and Bone
Author: Casey L. Bond
Genre: Upper YA Historical Fantasy
Editor: Stacy Sanford/ The Girl with the Red Pen
Cover Designer: Melissa Stevens at The Illustrated Author
Publication Date: Nov. 13th, 2020
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb: 
A hard-earned shield.

 

Days before she is to take her place as a shield maiden, like her mother before her, two deaths alter the course of Liv’s future. One belonged to a witch who called her by name, the other a chieftain from the north. Vengeance for the chieftain’s death comes in a wild fury that burns her village and slaughters her family. Left for dead, Liv pleads to Skuld – norn and weaver of the future – to spare her. A deal is struck that will endow her with the dark magic needed to claim her vengeance. But this power comes at an unfathomable price…

 

Ink made from the ashes of loved ones.

 

After his home is attacked, Calder races to warn neighboring villages of the threat. Little does he know he’s traveling into the path of fate that will lead him straight to Liv. Despite being broken, angry, and overwhelmed by power she cannot contain, it’s her willingness to defend others that draws Calder to her.

 

Armor forged from the bones of those she held dear.

 

Together, Liv and Calder discover they are two sides of the same sharpened blade. Rising from the heartache and fury in their pasts, they see a future together worth fighting for. With their strengths and hearts combined, can they become a force powerful enough to defeat the fleet of darkness coming for them? Or will the thread of fate that binds them unravel?

 

Praise for With Shield and Ink and Bone:

 

“An exhilarating Viking-inspired fantasy, With Shield and Ink and Bone by Casey L. Bond keeps your nerves teetering on the blade of an ax!” – Lani Forbes, award-winning author of the Age of the Seventh Sun series

 

“With Shield and Ink and Bone is a fast-paced, vivid, and mesmerizing tale that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. If you love Vikings or strong heroines you’ll find lots to enjoy here! Casey L. Bond has woven together unexpected twists, high stakes, romance, and bargains with gods to create this original story for readers.” -Victoria McCombs, author of The Storyteller’s Daughter

 

Casey L. Bond has managed to take a classic genre and make it new and fresh. A page turner that kept me staying up late just to know what was going to happen next. Excellent writing, excellent story. Well done!” – Quinn Loftis, USA Today bestselling author of the Grey Wolves series and The Viking’s Chosen

writing, excellent story. Well done!” – Quinn Loftis, USA Today bestselling author of The Grey Wolves series and The Viking’s Chosen

NOW LIVE & AVAILABLE ON KU!

 

Casey Bond lives in West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. She likes goats and yoga, but hasn’t tried goat yoga because the family goat is so big he might break her back. Seriously, he’s the size of a pony. Her favorite books are the ones that contain magical worlds and flawed characters she would want to hang out with. Most days of the week, she writes young adult fantasy books, letting her imaginary friends spill onto the blank page.

Casey is the award-winning author of When Wishes Bleed, the Frenzy series, and fairy tale retellings such as Riches to Rags, Savage Beauty, Unlocked and Brutal Curse. Learn more about her work at http://www.authorcaseybond.com.

Author Links:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Pinterest | Amazon | Bookbub | Bond-Tourage | Newsletter

NOW LIVE & AVAILABLE ON KU!

 

 

 

Title: With Shield and Ink and Bone
Author: Casey L. Bond
Genre: Upper YA Historical Fantasy
Editor: Stacy Sanford/ The Girl with the Red Pen
Cover Designer: Melissa Stevens at The Illustrated Author
Publication Date: Nov. 13th, 2020
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb: 

A hard-earned shield.

Days before she is to take her place as a shield maiden, like her mother before her, two deaths alter the course of Liv’s future. One belonged to a witch who called her by name, the other a chieftain from the north. Vengeance for the chieftain’s death comes in a wild fury that burns her village and slaughters her family. Left for dead, Liv pleads to Skuld – norn and weaver of the future – to spare her. A deal is struck that will endow her with the dark magic needed to claim her vengeance. But this power comes at an unfathomable price…

Ink made from the ashes of loved ones.

After his home is attacked, Calder races to warn neighboring villages of the threat. Little does he know he’s traveling into the path of fate that will lead him straight to Liv. Despite being broken, angry, and overwhelmed by power she cannot contain, it’s her willingness to defend others that draws Calder to her.

Armor forged from the bones of those she held dear.

Together, Liv and Calder discover they are two sides of the same sharpened blade. Rising from the heartache and fury in their pasts, they see a future together worth fighting for. With their strengths and hearts combined, can they become a force powerful enough to defeat the fleet of darkness coming for them? Or will the thread of fate that binds them unravel?

 

Praise for With Shield and Ink and Bone:

 

“An exhilarating Viking-inspired fantasy, With Shield and Ink and Bone by Casey L. Bond keeps your nerves teetering on the blade of an ax!” – Lani Forbes, award-winning author of the Age of the Seventh Sun series 

“With Shield and Ink and Bone is a fast-paced, vivid, and mesmerizing tale that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. If you love Vikings or strong heroines you’ll find lots to enjoy here! Casey L. Bond has woven together unexpected twists, high stakes, romance, and bargains with gods to create this original story for readers.” -Victoria McCombs, author of The Storyteller’s Daughter 

Casey L. Bond has managed to take a classic genre and make it new and fresh. A page turner that kept me staying up late just to know what was going to happen next. Excellent writing, excellent story. Well done!” – Quinn Loftis, USA Today bestselling author of the Grey Wolves series and The Viking’s Chosen

writing, excellent story. Well done!” – Quinn Loftis, USA Today bestselling author of The Grey Wolves series and The Viking’s Chosen

 

Casey Bond lives in West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. She likes goats and yoga, but hasn’t tried goat yoga because the family goat is so big he might break her back. Seriously, he’s the size of a pony. Her favorite books are the ones that contain magical worlds and flawed characters she would want to hang out with. Most days of the week, she writes young adult fantasy books, letting her imaginary friends spill onto the blank page.

Casey is the award-winning author of When Wishes Bleed, the Frenzy series, and fairy tale retellings such as Riches to Rags, Savage Beauty, Unlocked and Brutal Curse. Learn more about her work at http://www.authorcaseybond.com.

Author Links

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Pinterest | Amazon | Bookbub | Bond-Tourage | Newsletter

 

 

 

Title: A Stolen Empire Boxset
Author: Sherry D. Ficklin
Genre: YA Historical Romance
Cover Designer: Strong Image Editing
Publication Date: Oct. 12th, 2020
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb: 

 

The Stolen Empire series is a decedent journey through the eras of Russia’s most scandalous
queens, Catherine the Great and Empress Elizabeth. Beginning with the humble
origins of young Sophie—the girl destined to become Catherine—and culminating
with her coronation, this series offers a fanciful glimpse inside the life of
the dynamic, strong young woman who won the hand of a king, the heart of a
nation, and, ultimately, sacrificed her own innocence on the throne of an
empire. The trials and tribulations of court left their scars on young Sophie,
but she faced down every obstacle with the courage and grace of a queen.

But before Catherine was great, there was Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, whose claim to the
sovereignty of Russia was thwarted at every turn. Passed over time and again,
she battled a corrupt council, distant and unhinged relatives, and even her own
desires to seize the throne that should have been hers.  Surviving personal tragedies, unimaginable
losses, and political sabotage, Elizabeth clawed her way to the top, becoming
the first woman to lead the Romanov Empire—but also the one who laid the
groundwork for its eventual destruction.

Don’t miss this scandalous series about the tenacious women who rose up to rule in infamy, and,
in doing so, changed the fate of Russia forever.

 

99 CENTS FOR A LIMITED TIME!

Sherry is the author
of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling
Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with
a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the
other. That is, unless she’s on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness
monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.

 

Author Links:

FacebookWebsiteTwitterAmazon

Goodreads BookbubInstagram

 99 CENTS FOR A LIMITED TIME!

 

 

Title: With Shield and Ink and Bone
Author: Casey L. Bond
Genre: Upper YA Historical Fantasy
Editor: Stacy Sanford/ The Girl with the Red Pen
Publication Date: Nov. 13th, 2020
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

Blurb: 

 

A hard-earned shield.

Days before she is to take her place as a shield maiden, like her mother before her, two deaths
alter the course of Liv’s future. One belonged to a witch who called her by
name, the other a chieftain from the north. Vengeance for the chieftain’s death
comes in a wild fury that burns her village and slaughters her family. Left for
dead, Liv pleads to Skuld – norn and weaver of the future – to spare her. A
deal is struck that will endow her with the dark magic needed to claim her
vengeance. But this power comes at an unfathomable price…

 

Ink made from the ashes of loved ones.

 

After his home is attacked, Calder races to warn neighboring villages of the threat. Little
does he know he’s traveling into the path of fate that will lead him straight
to Liv. Despite being broken, angry, and overwhelmed by power she cannot
contain, it’s her willingness to defend others that draws Calder to her.

 

Armor forged from the bones of those she held dear.

 

Together, Liv and Calder discover they are two sides of the same sharpened blade. Rising from
the heartache and fury in their pasts, they see a future together worth
fighting for. With their strengths and hearts combined, can they become a force
powerful enough to defeat the fleet of darkness coming for them? Or will the
thread of fate that binds them unravel?

 

Praise for With Shield and Ink and Bone:

 

“An exhilarating Viking-inspired fantasy, With Shield and Ink and Bone by Casey L.
Bond keeps your nerves teetering on the blade of an ax!” – Lani Forbes,
award-winning author of the Age of the Seventh Sun series

 

“With Shield and Ink and Bone is a fast-paced, vivid, and mesmerizing tale that will keep
you hooked from beginning to end. If you love Vikings or strong heroines you’ll
find lots to enjoy here! Casey L. Bond has woven together unexpected twists,
high stakes, romance, and bargains with gods to create this original story for
readers.” -Victoria McCombs, author of The Storyteller’s Daughter

 

Casey L. Bond has managed to take a classic genre and make it new and fresh. A page
turner that kept me staying up late just to know what was going to happen next.
Excellent writing, excellent story. Well done!” – Quinn Loftis, USA Today
bestselling author of the Grey Wolves series and The Viking’s Chosen
writing,
excellent story. Well done!” – Quinn Loftis, USA Today bestselling author of
The Grey Wolves series and The Viking’s Chosen

 

Casey Bond lives in West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters.
She likes goats and yoga, but hasn’t tried goat yoga because the family goat is
so big he might break her back. Seriously, he’s the size of a pony. Her
favorite books are the ones that contain magical worlds and flawed characters
she would want to hang out with. Most days of the week, she writes young adult
fantasy books, letting her imaginary friends spill onto the blank page.

 

Casey is the award-winning author of When Wishes Bleed, the Frenzy series, and fairy
tale retellings such as Riches to Rags, Savage Beauty, Unlocked and Brutal
Curse. Learn more about her work at http://www.authorcaseybond.com.


Author Links

WebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads
Pinterest
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“Words hold power,” she finally said, taking up a long, wooden staff and walking toward me,
closing the distance between us. I realized it was her wand, not a staff. The
tip looked woven, like strands in a basket, but even as they bowed from the
staff itself, they rejoined to make a fine tip. They said witches could use
their wands to spin the fates of lesser men.

I wasn’t lesser. My eyes narrowed at her closeness.

“Few realize that,” she continued, undeterred. “They waste what little power they have by wagging
their tongues too much.” She smiled as she approached, stopping only when the
bottom of her crimson skirts brushed the tops of my boots. “But not you. You
observe first and speak only when it’s necessary. Even when your mother doesn’t
warn you beforehand.”

I swallowed thickly as she lifted a hand and let her thumb ghost down the lumps and bumps
of my braid, pausing over the iron serpent coiled around it. She took in my
shield. “I need you to come with me now, Liv.” She turned her back to me and
began walking away from the shore.

“How do you know my name?” I asked, refusing to follow her retreating form as she walked
toward the wood.

She turned with a knowing smile on her lips. “Because someone very important has a message for
you.”

She continued her trek, using her wand to help her up the slope, weaving herself into the
oaks and pines as if she was a scarlet thread in the forest’s vast tapestry.

My feet followed her.

The coppery scent of blood filled the air and we entered the spot where the animals had
been slain. They hung from thick branches in the trees above us, their blood
leaking into pots and jugs, buckets and bowls. “We must sit amongst them,” she
said, laying down her wand. She gathered her fine gown and sat on the forest
floor. “On Winternights especially, there is more power in the dead than in the
living.”

Hodor had stood there earlier. He split his rope to hang each of the animals we brought to
later smoke and preserve. 

I recognized each of them. The scrawny lamb that was born too late in the year and wouldn’t
survive the cold, the goat with the lame hoof, the runty piglet who was born
months ago, but wouldn’t grow despite the amount of food she ate.

Now they were dead, hanging limply from branches, and the witch wanted me to sit with her
beneath them, surrounded by captured puddles of their blood.

Silently, she stared at me and waited for me to comply with her request. I slowly walked
forward, the wind stirring the strands of hair escaping my braids as I stepped
beneath the animals. The moment my backside touched the forest floor, a strange
energy washed through the air.

The dead animals hanging above us began to writhe. The lamb let out a pitiful bleat and
the pig weakly grunted. The cocks flapped their wings and flew in circles. Blood
droplets landed on us. I ducked and shielded my head with my arms, looking to
the witch as goosebumps erupted over my skin.

She sat calmly, completely unaffected. Her cool, brown eyes were fixed on me.

The animals went still again as a gust of wind tore their spirits away once more. My heart
fluttered as I watched them rock back and forth, the ropes that held their
weight creaking on the rough limbs until they finally went still.

Splat.

Splat. Splat.

More droplets of blood splashed into the containers beneath them, wrung out by spirit and
wind.

A slow smile spread over the völva’s berry-stained lips. “There is power in blood and bone,”
the witch offered.

Power in words.

Power in blood and bone.

Power in the slain.

For me, Winternights had always been a raucous mixture of celebration and
spine-tingling fear. The dead walked the earth and joined us as we bade
farewell to summer and greeted the frigid winter, bade farewell to the earth’s
life and let death claim it again, as it had claimed our kinsmen. We were
nearer to them on this night, for they dwelt in the coldness of death now after
their walks in the sun, among the living.

“Why did you ask for me?”

“I told you.Someone has a message for you.”

She untied a small pouch from the belt at her waist and withdrew a wad of leaves, placing
them in her mouth and chewing them. She rolled her neck. Her silken hair fell
over her shoulders as she rocked forward and back, forward and back. Her
movements, once smooth, became jerky and erratic. Her breathing became labored.
She wrung her hands. Her legs fidgeted.

A burning smell filled the air. Not one of oak chips or firewood, but one that smelled of
sizzling flesh.

I scooted away from her.

Her hand clamped onto my ankle. “No!” she snapped. “Do not retreat. She is near.”

I looked over my shoulders, all around the shadowy wood. If someone was close, I couldn’t
sense her. No branches snapped. No leaves rustled.

She removed another small bundle of herbs from her pouch and offered it to me. “Chew.”

I shook my head when she insistently pushed it toward me. I didn’t take it from her. “It is the
gateway to the weavers… to the norns.”

Blood whooshed through my head, through my ears. “The norns?” I asked breathlessly. The
weavers called for me? By name?

“Skuld wishes to speak with you. This is the only way.”

The witch dipped her fingernails into a pot of lamb’s blood and flicked it toward my
face. Small droplets sprayed my skin.

She shoved the wad of blood-soaked leaves into my hand. My clammy palm wrapped around them,
then unfurled. It wasn’t wise to eat certain plants. Some would cause visions,
but some… some killed. And völva often sacrificed humans to the norns and to
the gods. 

They would drug them, and when they did not know their head from their feet, the witches would
tear the heart from their chest and hold it, still beating, in their hands,
calling out to the gods to show what they’d done for them.

“I won’t eat it.”

 “But, Skuld—” The witch’s voice cut off. Her breath hitched, then a squeak escaped her throat. My mother stood behind her,
the tip of her knife biting into the woman’s skin, her knee in the witch’s
back.

The runes began to writhe on her forehead, cheeks, and throat as she called upon her magic, but
my mother didn’t care. She held her blade tightly and refused to relent.

What is she doing? The witch will kill us both! Or Skuld may decide to clip the threads of
our lives for refusing her… I leapt to my feet.

“I believe she declined your request,” Mother gritted.

The völva’s dark eyes locked on mine. “You are making a mistake. You’ve seen the first sign
of what is to come.”