Archive for the ‘Romantic Paranormal’ Category

Title: Beauty and Wreckage
Series: Broken Crowns Book Two
Author: Natalie Bennett
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: June 3, 2019

 

 

 

A sadistic king made of darkness and death.

A rising queen full of fury and pain.

 

 

 

Armies will form, sides will be chosen, and one will conquer the other.
Murder, betrayal, political and sexual intrigue enter the treacherous world of ruthless royals.
Beauty & Wreckage must be read after the prelude: Beauty & Rage. Broken Crowns is a twisted PNR series not meant for the faint of heart. Contains explicit steam and various dark theme

 

 

 

Natalie Bennett is the creator of erotic stories that always come with a warning label. She writes about depraved alpha a**holes and women that love to hate them. Her books don’t follow any specific tropes, have no set word counts, and tend to deviate from traditional HEA’s.
 
When she isn’t in front of her computer she’s spending time with her husband and their three little boys.
 
Natalie is an avid fan of caramel frappes, horror movies, Shameless, and of course, reading.
 
You can find Natalie on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Title: Forever Desired
Series: Vampire Brides
Author: Ariel Marie
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Release Date: May 17, 2019
He’d waited an eternity to find her.
 
Athena captivated her audience every night. Her husky voice, sensual moves and megawatt smile, packed the nightclub where she sang. It was her name on the lips of her audience. Everyone wanted a piece of her—even him.
 
One song and Sorin was enthralled by the beauty on the stage. Her voice awoke a part of him he had thought to be dead long ago. She had no idea of the power she wielded over him with one glance, one smile and one kiss.
 
Never one to pursue a human before, he couldn’t ignore the hunger that burned for her. Only she can satisfy him, but he will first need to protect her from the ones who want him dead.
Forever Desired is a novella featured in the Vampire Brides series. All books in the Vampire Brides series are standalone and can be read in any order.

Ariel Marie is an author who loves the paranormal, action and hot steamy romance. She combines all three in each and every one of her stories. For as long as she can remember, she has loved vampires, shifters and every creature you can think of. This even rolls over into her favorite movies! She love a good action packed thriller! Throw a touch of the supernatural world in it and she’s hooked! 
She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio where she currently resides with her husband and three beautiful children.

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Title: High Society
Author: Casey L. Bond
Genre: YA PNR, Dystopian/SciFi
Editor: Stacy Sanford/ The Girl with the Red Pen
Cover Designer: Melissa Stevens/ The Illustrated Author Design Services
Model: Breanna Ellis
Publication Date: May 10th, 2019
Blurb:
The war raging outside is almost as unforgiving and tragic as the battle Eve must fight within herself…
Eve thought landing in the year 1717, in a time of piracy and open sea battle was brutal, but 1777 was far worse. The American colonies may have declared their independence over a year ago, but the Redcoats stubbornly refused to accept defeat. The war continued to rage on, and the battles fought were as acrimonious as they were destructive. Unsurprisingly, Enoch and his siblings were in the thick of it all, siring vampire militias to bolster the Continentals in their quest for true freedom.
To Eve, it quickly became clear that there were more schemes in play off the battlefields than on them, and as usual, she managed to insert herself in the center of the drama. Trouble, she learned, was the one thing that targeted her regardless of time or place. Even though Eve was built for maximum destruction, trouble might be the one thing she couldn’t outrun – no matter how fast she was.
The High Stakes Saga is young adult series perfect for fans of time travel, romance, vampires and those who hunt them, science fiction, and dystopian novels like The Hunger Games! Action-packed, gut-wrenching and deliciously romantic.
Suggested reading order for The High Stakes Saga: High Stakes, High Seas, High Society, High Noon and High Treason.
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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 and paranormal fiction, letting her imaginary friends spill onto the blank page.
Casey is the award-winning author Frenzy series and fairy tale retellings such as Riches to Rags, Savage Beauty, Unlocked and Brutal Curse. Learn more about her work at www.authorcaseybond.com.

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Author: Christine Pope
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Christian Bentulan (Covers by Christian)
Editor: Katherine Tomlinson, Story Authority
Publication Date: May 22nd, 2019
Blurb:
To find a dangerous grimoire, they’ll have to break a few rules…and maybe their hearts.
When warlock Tony Castillo picks up Cassandra Sandoval at the airport, the copper-haired witch brings his restless, aimless life into razor-sharp focus…and triggers a wince-inducing case of foot-in-mouth disease. Luckily, her cool, hazel-green gaze betrays not a flicker of answering attraction. Nope, Cassandra is all business. Which Tony can understand, given the magnitude of her task.
Cassandra has one job: retrieve the de la Paz grimoires from the heavily warded hiding place at Tony’s family home, conceal them with her unique shielding power, and immediately return them to her clan’s territory. Easy. Quick. No time for anything to go wrong, to give in to the temptation of a too-handsome warlock.
They find Tony’s mother unconscious and the grimoires missing, the only clue a slimy residue reeking of Escobar magic. As they race to get the dangerous books out of the wrong hands, Cassandra and Tony cross a few boundaries, break a few more rules, and find something neither expected — love. But if they fail, nothing will shield them, or the world as they know it, from unrelenting evil.
Note: An Ill Wind is a standalone, no-cliffhangers romance in the Witches of Canyon Road series. It takes place approximately four months after the events of book 5, Demon Born.
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Mysterious Ways: https://amzn.to/2WhIIAw
A Canyon Road Christmas: https://amzn.to/2GXph9o

 USA Today bestseller Christine Pope is the author of the paranormal romance Witches of Cleopatra Hill series and the Djinn Wars series, among many other books (sixty and counting!). Researching UFOs brought her to magical Sedona, Arizona, where she now makes her home. Find out more about her books at christinepope.com.

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A Canyon Road Christmas: https://amzn.to/2GXph9o
Title: Ford’s Fate
Author: Michelle Dare
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Photographer: Eric McKinney
Publication Date: May 24th, 2019
Blurb:
As a young vampire, Ford had experienced more than those much older than him. The love of his life left him. He fell for his best friend. People he considered friends were killed. Blood was on his hands.
Through it all, he never forgot his first love. The one who stole his heart then shattered it when he least expected.
When Sienna left Ford and mated with another, she thought she’d found her companion for eternity. Except, her life didn’t play out that way. Her mate was killed, leaving Sienna a shell of the shifter she once was.
Ford wanted Sienna back, but the choice had to be hers. Then her life was in danger, and his plans changed in an instant. All that mattered was keeping her safe.
Reaching a crossroad, they were helpless to fate’s plan. Ford was left standing before Sienna, wearing his heart on his sleeve, waiting to see what she’d do next.
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Michelle Dare is a romance author. Her stories range from sweet to sinful and from new adult to fantasy. There aren’t enough hours in the day for her to write all of the story ideas in her head. When not writing or reading, she’s a wife and mom living in eastern Pennsylvania. One day she hopes to be writing from a beach where she will never have to see snow or be cold again.
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BLURB

Edi Court is training to be a modern-day white witch, her unique ability is healing. Emotionally wounded from her ex, Anto, she has run away from the covenant with a need to heal herself. Following her psychic ability, she finds herself south, along the coast from Melbourne Australia, where she decides to set up her own healing shop, Crystal Sands.

Voltaire is a down to earth guy, a plumber by trade, he believes only what he sees in the physical world. The loss of his mom and sister to breast cancer and his ex, who stole his money and left him with a debt to work off, has caused him to close his heart.

Can Edi stop herself from rescuing another man and landing in deep water? Or with the Beltane energies thick in the air, can this be the start of a new relationship between two wounded souls?

Volt must become a believer in the Magiks and allow his heart to heal. And Edi must learn to trust herself again.

Will a non-believer and a believer find love over Beltane?

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BIO

I’ve been writing all of my life. While in my youth it was on the school bus each morning, or on my bed at night, and occasionally in the shearing shed where I could get some peace and quiet – as long as I ignored the sheep baa-ing. Then as an adult I wrote on the kitchen table, in cafés, on the tram, at the beach brushing away the sand. Basically, I write wherever and whenever I can. I’ve always had an abundance of ideas, with a variety of sassy, quirky, strong characters and their stories in my mind, whether they be set in the modern day, or in a fantasy world or even in the past. This is why I write in so many different genres. I can’t help it, just like I can’t help writing. It’s who I am, so I embrace it and use words to bring to life the stories my imagination conjures up. What can I say, I’m a kid who was born with not just an imagination, but one that was so big and rich with so much variety it has stayed with me into adulthood. And I let my imagination run wild, so I can capture it on the page, held down with words, for others to enjoy.

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Title: Seeing Angels
Author: Harmony Lawson
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance/Fantasy
Publication Date: April 15th, 2019
Blurb:
Camille Harper sees angels all around. They watch her. She is not sure why she was born with this ability but believes the knowledge will present itself in due time.
When she witnesses a confrontation between a beautiful angel and a dark winged creature, the strange event signals the end of her world.
Then she meets Jason and they enter an exciting but forbidden relationship. Her strange ability complicates things and puts her loved ones in danger. Camille wants a normal life, but changes lead to some apocalyptic event. Can Camille continue Seeing Angels without her life going to Hell?
Harmony Lawson and her family live in Northern California in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She is a self-published author and self-taught in drawing, painting, and writing. She is fascinated by angels, Nephilim, and fallen angels. She incorporates her research into her fictional stories.
While she has endured many hardships in life, she believes she learns something new from her experiences. Life has its ups and downs, trials and tribulations, and Heaven and Hell. She believes the bad times are a test to prove a person’s worth. Her books reflect on that concept. Writing also helps her heal from past traumas. In the meantime, she cares for her family, loves her pugs, and remains silly through all that life throws at her. Her goal is to be an introverted hobbit.

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Title: Wrought Iron Roses
Author: Elizabeth Kirke
Genre: NA Paranormal Romance
Editor: Squid and Ink
Cover Designer: Najla Qamber Designs
Publisher: Siren Press
Publication Date: March 21, 2019
Blurb:
Sisters Rachel, Angie, and Jo may have survived their first encounter with a curse, but hundreds more are lurking within their aunt’s antique shop. There’s just one problem: Peter, the apprentice, has no idea how to start teaching two untrained rune-casters and keep them safe at the same time.
Naet
It isn’t fair to Jo that she has no magic, but her sisters both do. She feels useless and left out. Worse yet, she knows that she’s a liability. She would leave but something in the shop is calling to her, reaching out … and she won’t leave until she finds it.
Ail
Every night, Angie’s dreams are haunted by a man who claims he was cursed, and she’s the only one who can save him. When she starts to get sick, Peter and her sisters are sure the cause is her mysterious dreams. How can they convince her that the person she’s determined to help could be the one killing her?
Eles
Rachel never expected to get a magic power and a boyfriend when she inherited the antique shop. Better yet, she’s actually good at curse-breaking. It seems as though she’s found exactly what she was meant to do. But, when a curse strikes two people she cares about, Rachel is faced with the harsh truth that she might only be able to save one.
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Elizabeth Kirke wanted to be an author before she even knew what an author was. She used to say that she wanted to be an artist, but that was only because she was too young to write and had to tell stories with pictures instead. She hasn’t stopped writing since she learned how. It wasn’t long before she dreamed of becoming an author and couldn’t be happier now that that dream is a reality.
If she isn’t writing…well, let’s be honest; if she isn’t writing she’s probably on Facebook thinking that she should start writing. But, if she isn’t writing or on Facebook, she’s probably doing something involving books, baking, gardening, or yarn. In an ideal world, she’d be reading and knitting while something from the garden is in the oven. Then again, in an ideal world, she’d have a flock of ducks and a couple of goats.
Like most slightly-nosy, avid readers, Elizabeth can’t resist trying to catch a peek at books she sees people reading when out in public to see if she can figure out what it is. While doing just that one day, she realized that it would probably be the coolest-thing-ever if she caught a complete stranger reading one of her books. That’s her new dream.
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The dim, dirty, scattered light bulbs hanging from the ceiling did almost nothing to help illuminate the back rooms of the antique shop. Angie wondered if anyone had ever bothered to try dusting them. Probably not, considering everything was covered in several inches of dust. Then again, the light bulbs probably weren’t cursed, whereas dusting anything else could be dangerous.
Angie made her way to, in her opinion, the creepiest room of the shop. Of course, every room was creepy. Each one was a huge, cavernous space, filled to capacity with piles and piles of antiques. None of the lights reached into the dark corners, which only added to the unnerving factor. The air itself felt stale to Angie, heavy somehow. Oppressive. She wondered if it was the dark magic.
But this room, which Peter jokingly called The Louvre, made Angie uncomfortable even before she’d known everything in it was cursed. Every inch of considerable wall space was covered with paintings, masks, and sconces. The floor was equally packed full of statues and sculptures. Angie could see outdoor furniture and birdbaths too, like some freaky garden supply store. The first time she entered the room it felt like the statues were staring at her. Now she wasn’t entirely sure some of them weren’t.
“Be careful,” Peter warned, as he and Rachel continued through the room. Rachel had volunteered to help him look for something about dreams, even though she wouldn’t have much luck reading the actual tomes.
“We will,” Angie promised. Jo nodded in agreement.
Angie turned her attention to one wall of paintings. She traced the rune ail three times and looked around. Everything had a muted aura with a distinctly pink tinge. It was nothing like the vivid red light of an active curse, but there was no mistaking the malicious magic clinging to everything. Angie suppressed a shiver and began scanning the paintings, hoping to spot one that looked different.
“What are you looking for exactly?” Jo asked.
“I’m not sure,” Angie admitted. “I was hoping ail would show me something, but nothing stands out. I thought maybe the curse affecting Ethan wouldn’t be sealed like the rest of these.”
“Can you tell the difference?”
“I think so. The trunk was bright red when it was cursing Rachel. Everything in here looks pink.”
“I wish I could see it,” Jo said sadly.
Angie knew there was nothing she could say to make her sister feel better. She doubted that pointing out Peter and Rachel didn’t have the same power would help. And even with the danger of being a rune-caster she knew Jo would rather have magic than not.
Instead, she flashed Jo a weak smile and moved closer to the paintings.
Jo followed. “Can I help anyway? Somehow?”
“Actually, yeah,” Angie said. Jo’s eyes lit up eagerly. “Since I don’t see anything different in the magic, I was thinking maybe we could tell which painting it is based on what it looks like.”
Jo caught on immediately. “You mean you think the painting might be of Ethan?”
“Exactly.”
With a nod, Jo started wandering toward another wall of paintings. “So, we’re looking for portraits, then?”
Angie nodded back and headed to a corner. Slowly, she made her way along the wall, studying each portrait, waiting for the moment she felt a sense of recognition.
“Hey, what about this one?” Jo called.
“What does he look like?” Even as she asked, Angie realized she couldn’t quite recall him. Her gut told her blond.
“It’s hard to say. It’s a big farmhouse, but there’s a guy standing in the doorway.”
Angie wrinkled her nose. “That’s not a portrait.”
“I know! I was thinking of that book we read when we were little. Remember? There was a girl who went missing and her parents found her in a painting and she kept moving around it?”
The plot sounded familiar. “That’s right… damn that means he could be in any of these that have people.” Angie went back to the corner and started over again, squinting at each tiny figure. And then, up high, she spotted one that caught her eye. She had dismissed it before for not being a portrait. It was a man sitting in a chair in a room. But something about him seemed strange. Almost like he was trapped there. She stretched up on her tiptoes trying to get a good look.
“Hey, An?”
“Yeah?” she said.
“What if these are all people?”
Angie frowned in the direction of her sister’s voice. “They’re not all people!” She looked back at the wall and pointed, even though Jo couldn’t see. “This one is a basket of fruit.”
“No, I mean these are all cursed, right? What if there’s a person trapped like Ethan in every one.”
The thought made Angie step back from the wall in alarm. Her eyes roved over every painting, taking it in. What if Jo was right? “That’s… horrible. There must be a hundred.”
“I’ve seen more in other rooms.”
Angie sighed. This was going to be a nightmare. And if people were somehow trapped in them all… “We’ll have to ask Peter. Maybe we need to start breaking the curses on these as soon as possible.”
“Agreed.”
Angie backed up a few more steps, craning her neck at the highest paintings. Why even hang them so high? It’s not as if they were on display for anything or anyone. It would have been easier to just stack them all together somewhere. She bumped into something and jumped. After turning to see what it was, she nearly jumped again. It was one of the statues.
“Ugh!”
She started to turn away, but paused and studied the statue. It was a young, handsome man. He had a sad expression and Angie decided it was exactly what she was looking for in a painting. The statue no longer had arms, and Angie wondered how old it was and what it had looked like in its prime. Something drew her eyes to its face again and she frowned. She reminded herself it was cursed, and forced herself to turn away.
Right next to it was a chair. In fact, it was a sturdy, metal garden chair and Angie was confident it would hold her weight. Giving the statue a wide berth, she made her way over to the chair, dragged it to the wall and climbed up, face to face with the painting of the man in the room.
Up close, it was clear he was in distress. His face and his posture screamed for help. And yet, Angie could just feel that he didn’t look like Ethan.
She climbed down with a sigh and moved on to examine more paintings. Eventually she made her way to the far corner, so dark that Jo was shining her phone flashlight up at the paintings.
“Anything?”
“Nothing. Not that I know what he looks like. You?”
Angie shook her head. “I found one that looked weird, but up close I don’t think it was him.”
“There’s a stack over there,” Jo pointed. “But I wasn’t sure if we can touch them.”
“As long as we’re careful not to cut ourselves, Peter said we’re okay,” Angie said. “But if you feel funny or anything, let me know and we’ll set aside the last one you touched.”
Jo nodded. “Same to you.”
They turned their attention to the stack of paintings leaning up against the wall. After only a few, Angie heaved a sigh.
“You okay?” Jo asked.
Her sister nodded, but blew out another heavy breath. “I’m starting to feel a little light-headed.”
Jo immediately cast a worried glance at the paintings. “Light-headed or… cursed?”
“I’m… not sure.”
“Let’s go get Peter.”
Angie nodded in agreement. The two carefully separated the last painting they examined from the pile and headed out of the room. An uneasy feeling crept over Angie as she followed her sister out. She paused in the doorway and looked back, reluctant to leave.
 
Title: Unbound Spirits
Author: Christine Pope
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Christian Bentulan (Covers by Christian)
Editor: Katherine Tomlinson, Story Authority
Publication Date: March 20th, 2019
Blurb:

Are they the hunters…or hell’s hunted?

With the troubling aftermath of Project Demon Hunters’ first investigation still heavy on his mind, Michael Covenant awaits Audrey Barrett’s arrival in Tucson to film the second episode.
Except she never shows up.
Michael’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when his psychic gift pinpoints the exact spot outside the airport terminal where her panic and terror have left an indelible impression. Someone has taken her against her will, and it’s anyone’s guess where she is now.
Audrey can’t believe her eyes. Her kidnapper is a demon wearing a dead man’s face — a demon furious that she and Michael closed the portal he’d been using as a direct connection to hell…a demon who’ll stop at nothing to take his revenge.
Like a homing beacon, Audrey’s very soul reaches out for the man who broke her trust but still holds her heart — Michael, who fears that even if he reaches her in time, their fight with this particular demon has only just begun….
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USA Today bestseller Christine Pope is the author of the paranormal romance Witches of Cleopatra Hill series and the Djinn Wars series, among many other books (sixty and counting!). Researching UFOs brought her to magical Sedona, Arizona, where she now makes her home. Find out more about her books at christinepope.com.
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Unquiet SoulsUnbound SpiritsUnholy Ground

They headed toward the space where Susan had left her Subaru. However, they’d only gone a few yards when Michael stopped, his entire body going cold, as if he’d just been pushed into an unheated swimming pool.
“What is it?” Susan asked, pausing as she looked at him with some concern.
“I don’t know,” he replied. His teeth wanted to chatter, and he clenched his jaw. “Something dark. Something evil.”
“Here?” She looked around in bewilderment at the parking lot, at the rows of cars shimmering under the bright sun.
He could see that sun, but he couldn’t feel its warmth. Even though he felt as if his legs couldn’t move, they were so numb, he somehow managed to force himself to take a step forward, then another one. Slowly, the icy feeling dissipated until it was gone entirely.
Just to be sure, Michael began to retrace his steps. At once the cold surrounded him again, so tangible, it was like walking into a wall of ice. It seemed to emanate from a single parking space they’d passed. He went to it, and experienced a sharp shock of horror and surprise, gone quickly but still somehow thrumming in his bones.
Those weren’t his emotions, however. Somehow he knew he was experiencing what Audrey had experienced in this very spot less than an hour earlier.
“Michael?”
He turned and looked back at Susan, who stood at the edge of the parking space, her expression a study in confusion. Clearly, she couldn’t feel anything, was only responding to his own reactions.
“I don’t know where Audrey is,” he said slowly. “But I’m fairly certain she’s in very grave danger.”
 
Title: Irresistible
Author: Tara Vasser
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance
Cover Designer: Dawn Til Dusk Designs
Models: Chase and Mandy Borst
Publisher: Winter Musings LLC
Publication Date: April 11, 2019
Blurb:
Buried as punishment for a crime he didn’t commit, Endre has nothing but time to plot revenge on his betrayer. Salvation arrives when an archaeology student unwittingly exhumes his coffin and provides him with the first blood he’s tasted in nearly a century.
Upon awakening from an attack by a creature she never imagined actually existed, Nora discovers she is now his hostage. Forced to accompany Endre from Italy to Paris on a quest for vengeance, she is thrust into his dark and forbidden world where she finds herself inexplicably drawn to the Vampire. Lust runs rampant throughout the course of their journey and Nora begins to question if the irresistible connection between them is more than mere biology.
Tara Vasser is a wicked writer who lives in the frozen north in Minnesota with her wonderful husband and two rambunctious little dudes. She is an engineer during the day, a crazy mom in the afternoon and a writer at night. She enjoys spending her time playing in the dirt when her gardens aren’t covered in snow and listening to a wide variety of music that inspires her writing – sometimes doing both at the same time.   

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Amazon: https://amzn.to/2TfZFsu

PROLOGUE
1923 – Italy
Endre sat beneath the shadow of a massive cork tree in his garden, reading the newspaper as he watched the first rays of sunshine peek over the hills to the east. It was a pity he could not give his full attention to the beautiful view, his mind burdened with the troubling headlines. Folding the paper with a deep sigh, he pushed the paper and his thoughts of Mussolini’s latest moves to overtake parliament to the side. Perhaps it was time to leave Italy and move on to greener pastures. There was an ominous scent in the wind, and it spoke of the death and destruction on the horizon.
Endre was no stranger to war and chaos, having been born a warrior. When conflicts arose in the world around him, his hands always itched to take up sword and shield. But of course, those days of ending wars with steel were over. Now, the weapons of choice were guns and bombs. There was no honor in that. No promises of glory or feasting in the halls of Valhalla when so little skill and preparation was involved.
Valhalla or no, the political climate of this region was no longer hospitable to his research. Secrecy was completely necessary, and the alliances Gregor had forged to provide Endre with supplies for his lab would not stand the threat this new breed of fascism posed. Glancing over at the horizon, he frowned. He had been out here long enough; it was time to retire for the day, and he would allow his dreams to conjure his next moves and put new plans into place when twilight fell. Endre picked up his paper and made his way toward the door when the noise of automobile tires crunching over the gravel drive and shouting stilled his movement.
“Back here! In the garden!” a voice hollered from the garden entrance.
A man dressed impeccably in a suit with a homburg gracing his head stood at the entrance of the sanctuary. Endre did not recall his name, he only knew the man as one of Lorenzo’s bodyguards. The man gestured wildly in Endre’s direction.
Several more of Lorenzo’s bodyguards filed in behind him, posturing menacingly.
Confused, Endre watched the men as they lined the perimeter of his garden, violating his last few moments before the sun crested over the hill. “What is this? Where is Lorenzo?” he scoffed, standing his ground when they surrounded him where he stood, preparing to fight if the need arose.
“I am here,” Lorenzo’s French-accented voice called leisurely from the garden entrance as he strolled forward and casually buttoned his suit jacket.
Sighing with relief, Endre relaxed at the sight of his friend.
Lorenzo sauntered into the garden lazily, stopping to inspect a blossom before meandering his way through his men to stand in front of Endre.
“And to what do I owe this honor?” Endre questioned suspiciously, watching Lorenzo carefully. It was much too close to dawn for them to be conducting business.
“Endre, you have been charged with murder,” Lorenzo recited in a bored voice, placing his hands in his pockets and rocking back on his heels.
Endre’s head jerked back as if he had been struck. Murder? He was being charged with murder? “And who is it exactly that I am supposed to have killed?” Endre demanded, outrage making his voice boom through the still morning air.
“Count La Rossa.” Lorenzo sighed sadly. “Why did you do it, Endre?”
“You cannot be serious.” Endre balked, sure this was some prank. “Gregor is dead?”
The men surrounding him took a step closer, as if of one mind.
“I did not kill Gregor,” Endre protested, though he found himself falling back on his training from another life and crouched into a fighting stance.
Several more men joined the mob, men from Gregor’s guard, flanking Endre now with more than a dozen men. At most, he could take out half of them before they would bring him down, leaving another half dozen to beat him mercilessly and likely kill him in the process—merely for resisting. Any defiance would be futile, but he would not go down without a fight, especially for a false charge.
Lorenzo shook his head sadly at Endre’s change in demeanor, as if his instincts of self-preservation condemned him of the crimes for which he was accused. Lorenzo raised his voice loud so all the men could hear him. “Endre, you are hereby charged with the murder of Count Gregor La Rossa. Your brothers here will serve as judge, jury, and executioners of your sentence. The traditional punishment for such a crime, as you are well aware, is burial. Your death by starvation will serve as justice by the old laws laid forth by The Council. Guards, seize him and prepare him for his punishment.” Then, turning back to Endre, he taunted, “I think we will bury you here in your beloved garden.”
Several of the guards pulled out pistols and made moves toward Endre.
Cowards, of course, they would not face him without firearms.
Endre lashed out, but he had only his fists. He managed to knock two of the guards to the ground before they had him pinned to the moldering leaves in the dirt.
Fists were no match for bullets.
Watching with one eye—the other caked in blood and dirt—three men began digging his grave beneath the large tree and another two hauled a plain coffin through the garden gates.
At the sight of the coffin, Endre redoubled his struggled to break free. “Lorenzo, this is nonsense. Gregor was my oldest friend and confidant. He was like a brother to me, just as you are. I would never harm him. What is the evidence against me? I demand a trial with The Council. It is my right,” he spoke around the dirt in his mouth.
Scowling down at him disapprovingly, Lorenzo approached slowly. He stooped and picked up Endre’s fallen fedora, brushing dirt from the fabric.
An entreating glance at Lorenzo earned Endre naught but a kick to the face. This man was no friend. Endre wondered if he had ever been. Blood from a gash above his eye poured down his face, but healed almost as quickly as it occurred, leaving dried blood caked to his eyelashes. Through crusted lashes, he watched as Lorenzo stood above him and removed his own hat, placing Endre’s atop his head instead.
Smiling, Lorenzo gave a nod of approval at Endre’s taste in men’s fashion and tossed his hat to one of the men standing guard, inciting a round of chuckles from his henchmen.
Fury boiled in Endre’s veins as his ‘friend’ betrayed him and made light of the unlawful punishment he dealt. How could Lorenzo believe Endre capable of such a crime? It was unlike Lorenzo to dole out consequence without following proper protocol.
Unless Lorenzo had something to hide. Something he worried The Council would unearth if the matter were brought to trial.
Realization sunk like a stone in Endre’s gut as he put the pieces together.
When the guards finished digging the grave, the men casually tossed the coffin into the pit at Lorenzo’s gesture. The dull thud sent a chill through Endre. He continued to struggle against his captors, but with three of them now detaining him, he received nothing but a pistol whip to the head and kicks to his ribs.
With a nod from Lorenzo, the guards hauled Endre to his feet and dragged him toward the yawning opening of the coffin awaiting him. At the foot of the open box, two of the guards held his arms while one bound his hands in front of him with thick rope. Endre let out a shout when one man grabbed his hair and held his head back so he gazed directly into the lightening sky. From the corner of his eye, Endre watched Lorenzo pull a wicked-looking dagger from a sheath at his hip. The blade glinted with the light of the rising sun, a shining omen of Endre’s imminent demise.
“Lorenzo, please,” Endre spoke to the man before him, the man he had considered a friend until this day, “I—”
Lorenzo only gave Endre a devious grin and prevented any more words from escaping his lips with a quick slash of his blade across Endre’s neck. Blood cascaded from his neck and he choked as it drained into his throat. Within seconds, the wound had already begun to heal itself, the blood flow stanched. Lorenzo’s blade dashed out again, performing the same motion across the nearly-healed laceration. Again, Endre choked and sputtered on his own warm blood and any words he wished to speak.
Light-headed from the blood loss, Endre fell to his knees. The guards holding him stepped back and left him with Lorenzo glowering down at him. Endre’s head lolled to the side and he was barely clinging to consciousness. All it took was a well-placed kick from Lorenzo and he fell backward into his new prison.
Several of the guards made a move to place the lid on the coffin, but Lorenzo stayed their movement with a wave of his hand. “Leave us. I want to speak to this murderous traitor alone before we leave him to the worms,” Lorenzo ordered, his eyes never leaving Endre’s fading ones.
Several murmurs went through the small crowd. That was not the way. Tradition and adherence to the old laws stated the sentence must be carried out before an amassing of the people, so all could witness what fate befell a murderer of his own kind.
“Leave us!” Lorenzo roared, turning to stare down each man in turn.
The guards filed from the garden, leaving Endre with Lorenzo and his bloody blade.
Lorenzo couched so his face was close to Endre’s.
Endre only wished enough blood had still flowed in his veins so he could reach out and relieve Lorenzo of the triumphant smile gracing his lips.
“Endre,” Lorenzo whispered with a sigh, “I warned you not to approach Gregor to back your research, and yet you did. Not only that, expressing wishes to distribute your cure at no cost?” Lorenzo tsked and shook his head. “He would have done it, too. Threatened to expose me for lack of loyalty to our people. Unfortunately, he miscalculated. The man was too much of a philanthropist for his own good. He never did understand the power his money held. Such a waste. And here we are. Someone has to take the fall for Gregor’s death and justice must be served. It might as well be you. His blood is on your hands as much as mine, all because you could not follow simple directions. We could have profited from this together, you and I. I would kill you now if it would not upset the delicate sensibilities of our people. But alas, I cannot. Perhaps in a century or two, I will come check on you and finish the task when everyone has forgotten your existence.”
Endre glared up at Lorenzo, the lack of blood preventing his wounds from healing and allowing him to foil his new enemy’s plans.
“But do not worry,” Lorenzo continued, brushing dirt from his trousers. “I will not let your research go to waste. I still have plans for the work you have done, but perhaps an adjustment here and there to suit my own needs.”
Endre only had the faintest inkling of what kind of dastardly plans Lorenzo was concocting, but the malicious smile gracing his lips was indication enough that it would not be good.
Rising to his feet, Lorenzo glanced down impassively at Endre once more. “You should have listened to me, old friend. Now, you will have plenty of time to think on your cure and the error of your ways while you rot in your grave,” Lorenzo spat out with a maniacal laugh. Bending over, he slashed out with his blade one last time.
Endre felt the slightest trickle of blood ooze from the cut, so little of the liquid remained in his body.
At a shouted order from Lorenzo, the guards all marched back into the garden.
Endre attempted to alert them to Lorenzo’s treachery, but the only sound from his mangled throat was a pained moan. The lid of the coffin was lowered, blocking out the dazzling sunshine of the new morning, and hammers pounded out the finality of his death sentence. The last glimpse Endre had of Lorenzo was a mocking tip of the hat, his hat.
This box would not hold Endre forever, and when he rose, he intended to rain down retribution, and when he came for Lorenzo, it would be all-out war. The last thing he could hear between his own thoughts of revenge and each shovelful of dirt falling on the wooden box was Lorenzo whistling happily with the belief he had gotten away with his crimes.