Daily Archives: July 25, 2014
(The Darkmore Saga, Bk 1)
by Lex Chase
On the Coastal Bend of Texas, a hidden kingdom called Darkmore lies in ruins, and King Sevon Maraté is trapped. Using Sevon as a mouthpiece and a scapegoat, Lord Dominic rules from the shadows. Born of royal verkolai blood and as beautiful as he is lethal, Sevon possesses the ability to part the Veil separating his world from hundreds of others. His gift is his chance to escape, but Dominic refuses to relinquish his tool for power. Dominic forges an ambitious plan to invade the prosperous land of Priagust. Only a select few know the mythic kingdom of shifters exists. Sevon is out of options for his people’s survival, and cooperating with Dominic is his only chance.
On their foray into Priagust, Dominic’s men kidnap and interrogate a shifter named Jack. Even under torture, Jack’s loyalty to his kind never wavers. But as Jack’s knowledge about Darkmore’s king and its history unsettles Sevon, a curious bond begins to form. Despite Sevon’s mistrust, Jack is determined to tame Sevon’s wild heart and perhaps earn his freedom. As invasion looms, Sevon wonders if trusting Jack will lead him into another trap or if he should forget about chasing the sunrise and remain Dominic’s compliant prisoner.
Jack shuddered against the cold bite of his shackles. The iron cuffs held him upright, and his arms were stretched tight over his head. Gravity pulled him sloping forward painfully against his bonds. His umber hair swayed in sweat-slicked strands and clung to his face. The humidity hung like milky fog visible against the gray stones. He could smell the herbal traces of algae glazing the walls. No moans, no cries for release, not even a rattled chain sounded throughout the dungeon. He deduced he was the only prisoner—or the only one currently living.
It had happened so fast. He was at the shoreline of the lake when two figures shot from the water. Shrouded in black, the demonic men yanked him into the lake. Jack had expected his end. But he didn’t expect a dungeon, and not just any, but Darkmore’s dungeon. He knew it as well as any ghost story. He had teased Sevon mercilessly for crossing his fingers and turning in a circle three times as he walked by the entrance.
Jack’s heart softened. Sevon, sweet Sevon. It had been exciting for Jack when he was a cub to have a special friend outside of Priagust. One who was not a shifter at all, but something different. He was Jack’s treasure, and he would guard their memory.
But the men had taken him and tossed him in this dank cell. It had to be a mistake. Darkmore was Priagust’s sworn protector. King Louis would never wrongfully imprison a shifter. Jack spit a speck of grit. Was Louis alive? Did he survive the storm? What of Anna Maria? Surely she’d know.
But Jack wasn’t sure. He had been just a child when he saw Louis die, and all childhood memories were fallible. He could only hope it was a misunderstanding. He squinted with the painful pull in his shoulders, and the realization sank in. This was far more than a mere misunderstanding.
Jack’s pupils flexed into pinpricks when the sound of distant footsteps announced someone’s approach. He jerked his chin toward the sound to get the first look at his host.
An ethereal, earthbound spirit drifted into the dungeon. Pale as Winter Mother’s snow and with a brilliant bloom of golden curls to rival Father Sun’s rays, the woman captivated him. Dressed in layers of the midnight sky and coal, her skirts swirled in a trail of goldfish fins behind her. The unusual ladybird settled at the cell door, tossing a lock of spun gold over her shoulder. She waited.
“What do they call you?” she coldly demanded.
A peculiar tenor tone in her voice made Jack choke on his breath. A man. The strange, colorful bird was a man.
By the way he glared at Jack as if he were of no consequence, Jack decided that whatever the case, he had to be on guard. Jack sniffed and mentally discerned a more masculine scent under the perfumed oils. But there were two masculine scents, this beautiful man’s and someone else’s. He licked the salt on his lip and smirked. He had nothing left to lose.
Jack lifted his head, and he panted against the searing pain in his back. He focused on the curious little meadowlark shrouded in flimsy frippery. He had never seen such an unusual hue of hair before, but he knew one thing for certain.
“You’re not the king,” Jack said.
Something came over the strange man as he quirked his thin brow in irritation. “Yes, I am the king,” he growled in warning. “Your name, creature.”
Jack evaded the question and changed the subject. “The king of Darkmore would never show a shifter such hostility,” he spat. “Go, little meadowlark. Fetch him, now. You are of no concern.”
The supposed king recoiled on his booted heel as if he had been burned.
“Excuse me, you maggot?” he growled and his temper flared.
Jack squinted at him. He looked so much like Anna Maria, as Jack remembered her. Perhaps her son? Perhaps Sevon? Jack swallowed. He had to keep it to himself. He had to find out what he was dealing with first, if he survived that long. He thought of his brother, Kaltag, back in Priagust, probably wondering where he was and if Jack was still staring over the lake, waiting for the day Sevon would appear.
Jack’s heart thumped.
“Louis is gone. I am the king now, and you will answer to me. My sources tell me you’re a spy from the shifter land of Priagust,” he said. The accusation did not bode well for Jack.
Jack took his stand against his captor. He strained against his shackles and grinned through the searing pain in his shoulder blades. “Your sources are clearly mistaken. I was only fishing when your men emerged from the lake and tried to drown me. Which—” He glanced around, and his shackles rattled. “This is some level of hell, correct?” Jack watched him, still puzzling his way through recollections. It wasn’t possible he was Sevon. Why would Sevon become this? He hissed a laugh and kept up a brave face. Jack turned his gaze up. He smirked when the king leaned away from the hammered iron bars of Jack’s cell in disgusted horror. “You are a very fussy bird. You’re no more than a chick, peeping for nourishment.”
“You will answer my questions, shifter…. Or you will be forced to answer them.”
“What kind of king do you think you are?” Jack asked. “Do you understand the scope of what you are doing by holding me like a criminal?”
“Pardon me for not rolling out the red carpet and most lovely courtesans,” he said sarcastically.
“A little bird that pecks. I like that.” Jack chuckled.
Crossing his willowy arms in irritation, the king nodded to the stocky dungeon guard.
The guard loped forward on his gnarled legs and slipped the heavy key in the iron padlock. With a protesting shrill, the bolt popped from its moorings with a loud echoing clank. The cell door swung open with an antiquated creak, and colorful bird of a man slipped into the cell.
Jack’s heart thumped, and his face heated. It was Sevon. His Sevon. He had never been so sure. In the twenty-two years between then and now, the boy Jack had so longed for no longer existed. Confusion swirled through him, but Jack had to keep it within. More parts of the puzzle would fall into place if he just gave it time.
His heart wouldn’t stop racing; all the while he maintained his arrogant grin.
“I’d curtsey, but as you can see, I’m a little tied up,” Jack apologized.
This new Sevon cocked his hip in irritation and snorted. “For a vicious animal, you don’t look like much.”
The term hit Jack hard, but he wouldn’t cower.
“Funny.” Jack chuckled. “For a king, you present yourself quite a bit like a whore.”
Before he could blink, Sevon was upon him. He yanked Jack by the scruff of his hair, tilting his neck painfully backward on its stalk to meet him eye to eye. Jack’s eyes rolled wildly to focus on the glacier blue of Sevon’s. His scent stabbed into Jack’s nose, jabbing cruelly into his brain. The delicate floral became an unrelenting assault on his mind and body. The damning confirmation sank into Jack’s stomach. It was a matter of survival not to show fascination or fear.
“Listen to me, you worthless shit-eating maggot!” Sevon snarled in his face. “You don’t get to call me a whore! Do you understand? I will leave you here to rot in this dank cell until even the rats find you too foul and putrescent. You will be thankful we don’t outright kill you. You will be appreciative of your accommodations.”
Sevon relaxed his grip and his harsh tone eased. “You will be eager to answer our questions. You will make yourself very helpful. Or I will have you skinned alive and your flesh made into jerky.” Sevon snorted a breath through his nose, and Jack’s hair fluttered. The beautiful blond man smiled like a content feline. “Now, do we have an understanding?”
Channeling the bravest parts of himself, and locking away the heartbreak, Jack laughed with a crooked, toothy grin. If this was the game, then he would play it until he was the last one standing. Finally, he had sorted the second male scent, and his thoughts sparked with devious delight. “Did I ruffle your feathers, meadowlark? Does the man whose scent you’re slathered in get to ruffle more than your feathers?”
Sevon shoved him away with a wail of disgust. Jack’s head bounced against his chest, and his manacles creaked at the added pressure. Sevon’s offended squeal was the only warning as a hard, echoing slap cracked across Jack’s cheek so forcefully that his vision blew out into whiteness for a moment.
With several flustered breaths, Sevon sharply pivoted and then stormed out of the cell. He nodded to the stocky guard. “Have him questioned about the nature of his people and land. I don’t care how you do it, or to what ends. Use any means necessary to milk him dry.”
The guard bobbed his head and bowed.
Turning back, Sevon regarded Jack one final time.
Jack noted the confusion mingled with a semblance of fascination. He forced a smile through his blood-tinged teeth. “See you soon, Your Majesty,” he purred.
Jack clung to a scrap of hope, and listened to the whispers of Sevon’s skirts as he left Jack in the darkness.
The rats chittered.
Lex Chase once heard Stephen King say in a commercial, “We’re all going to die, I’m just trying to make it a little more interesting.” She knew then she wanted to make the world a little more interesting too.
Weaving tales of cinematic, sweeping adventure and epic love—and depending on how she feels that day—Lex sprinkles in high-speed chases, shower scenes, and more explosions than a Hollywood blockbuster. She loves tales of men who kiss as much as they kick ass. She believes if you’re going to going to march into the depths of hell, it better be beside the one you love.
Lex is a pop culture diva and her DVR is constantly backlogged. She wouldn’t last five minutes without technology in the event of the apocalypse and has nightmares about refusing to leave her cats behind. She is incredibly sentimental, to the point that she gets choked up at holiday commercials. But like the lovers driven to extreme measures to get home for the holidays, Lex believes everyone deserves a happy ending.
Lex also has a knack for sarcasm, never takes herself seriously, and has been nicknamed “The Next Alan Moore” by her friends for all the pain and suffering she inflicts on her characters. She is a Damned Yankee hailing from the frozen backwoods of Maine now residing in the burbs of Northwest Florida, where it could be 80F and she’d still be a popsicle.
She is grateful for and humbled by all the readers. She knows very well she wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and welcomes feedback.
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