On January 27, my newest book, #4 in the Dragonriders of Fiorenza series, goes live at last! It’s called Witch’s Plight, it’s available on Amazon and Kindle, and the cover is dandy.
It was originally going to be called Warrior’s Doom, but then I realized the book was long enough for me to cut in half, and now all the buildup to the big war will be in the new Warrior’s Doom. Witch’s Plight is about … well, here’s the blurb:
Everything is supposed to go back to normal.
Fia is supposed to pretend she never loved Salvi. That she never was targeted by the Pope and his army. That her life never was in danger.
That makes no sense to Fia.
After all, she’d dressed as a man, found freedom beyond her wildest imaginings, and won the race of a lifetime.
But now Salvi’s village has been burned by the Pope’s dragons – many old friends dead in the ashes.
And they kidnapped her best friend.
And the Pope’s army is marching toward her city, Fiorenza, to attack.
Her papa wants her to marry Carmelo. Still. After all this.
They don’t know the secret Fia is hiding. To protect this secret, and all her friends, Fia’s going to have to make all the wrong choices.
Oh, Carmelo’s one of the characters in this story. This is a portrait of what Carmelo might look like. He’s a little thin, but give him a break, it’s the freaking Middle Ages and he doesn’t do crossfit.
THE OPENING FROM WITCH’S PLIGHT:
If you’re going to call me an enchantress, in public, right in front of the man I love more than life – then don’t be upset when I grab a spirit out of the nether world and slam it into your body.
Neva hadn’t seen Carmelo for years when he suddenly appeared, like a beautiful dream, before her, in the open street in Siena, as the lovely ladies and wealthy nobles strolled past them and the afternoon sun shone down upon them like a blessing.
Neva had been scolding her friend, Fia, for going around disguised as a man. She was wearing her lover’s glamour to complete the illusion because she was working in the dragon stables, trying to fly in the race. Neva could barely see past her glamour, but even then, she’d only seen through her disguise because she was a magic worker.
But as soon as Neva saw Carmelo, she instantly forgot Fia and all the world around her. She lowered her head to Carmelo and bowed in a deep curtsey.
Carmelo bowed deeply in return. “Madame, I can’t help but feel like we’ve met before,” he said, a new warmth in his voice.
Neva fought for words. “It … it has been a very long time,” she stammered. “My family used to attend Mass with yours at Santa Margherita’s back when we were children.”
“Indeed!” Carmelo said gallantly. “You do look familiar, but I’m terrible with faces and names.”
She knew he was teasing, and her face went bright red as she smiled. “I’m Neva.” Her words almost failed when she gazed into his blue eyes.
“Neva! What a pleasure!” Carmelo bowed again, as if giddy. “Your brother was a good friend of mine.”
“I know,” Neva said helplessly, as if in a trance, unable to stop staring at his eyes. “I used to watch you two play.”
Carmelo’s eyes twinkled. “You did?”
Neva went bright red again. Then Carmelo went bright red. They were gazing at each other and they couldn’t seem to break eye contact.
After a moment, Neva looked down with a soft laugh, and then Carmelo laughed, too, and then neither of them seemed to know how to stand or where to look.
It seemed like an entire age since she’d felt so light and happy.
That was when Lando Valori had come swaggering into the tender meeting between Neva and Carmelo – and had destroyed it.
“Did you know that this girl is an enchantress?” Lando mocked.
Lando sneered. “Be careful around her, Carmelo. You have a race tomorrow, you know that? She’s luring you into her sweet trap, so she can cast a spell and kill your performance tomorrow.”
“The way you claim she’s killed yours?” Carmelo said coldly, looking up from Neva’s eyes. “Or maybe it’s just because you can’t fly a dragon. I understand that it’s much easier to blame somebody else than to work on your own shortcomings.”
Neva took a little pleasure in how Lando’s face darkened as the insult struck home.
“You know that the law demands that I turn in a witch like you.” Lando grabbed Neva’s arm, pulling her close as he hissed his words into her face.
“Let her go.” Carmelo pushed between them, prying Lando away. Neva clung to his arm, her heart beating fast. But fury was rising in her. Lando had sworn to her once that he would repay her for a good deed she’d done, once upon a time. He’d gone back on his word – and apparently he thought it was great sport to threaten her life in this way.
Carmelo took her arm, and she could feel his strong heartbeat in his grip. “Come on, Neva. Let’s go.” His voice shook with barely controlled fury.
“Are you defending a witch?” Lando shouted, his voice bouncing off the houses and buildings around him.
Neva froze under his cruel eyes, her mouth closed so tightly that her lips were not visible.
Witch – That was the word that would get her burned at the stake. All of her nightmares were contained in that one word.
Every sensation of burning at the stake – the unbearable heat billowing into her face, her dress catching fire, the mocking laughs of the crowd watching her, making fun of her shrieks of pain – all of these leapt into her mind so vividly that she jerked her head back from the sparks of the fires.
Lando wanted her to burn. He thought her fear was funny.
That dark energy bubbled up from Neva’s heart and guts, generating an electrical feeling through her that gave her goosebumps.
“You’re going to leave her alone,” Carmelo said, defending her. “If you have any regard …”
Lando swung at Carmelo, knocking his burgundy velvet hat off his head. Carmelo took a few steps away from her to scoop the hat up, his eyes fiery.
But now, as Lando turned to jeer at Carmelo, his back was to her.
Whispering fiercely, Neva fell right into a trance. She reached out to the side and grabbed a spirit. Then she spat at Lando and clapped her hands together.
Mags shrieked from the treetop. Chicklet, no!
Despite her crow’s warning, Neva didn’t hesitate. She strode forward, her hair flaring around her head like a wraith, and she slammed a hand against his back, flinging a spirit into his heart.
Lando whirled, heat in his eyes, beginning to breathe heavily. The look on his face was like he was trying to sneeze but couldn’t quite manage it. His mouth opened, and garbled words spilled out.
In his eyes, Neva saw the eyes of the spirit that she had released into Lando’s body. She saw that he was fighting the unwanted guest – but he was losing.
And she smiled.
“Thus to your broken promises,” she whispered.