Title: Blue Rose
Author: Lena Austin
Author Website: http://www.lenaaustin.com/
Publisher: Aspen Mountain Press
Publisher Website: http://www.aspenmountainpress.com/
Coming January 16, 2009
The only one not lying is the demon…
Ever read Dante's Inferno? The old boy must have a new nickname-- Pinwheel-- for all the turning over in his grave he's doing. This time the tourists in Hell are a poisoned warrior princess and her two suitor princes, both of whom have secrets of their own. Their guide is not a gentle philosopher-poet, but a sassy demon with his own reasons for being their escort through all nine levels. They have to find the blue rose in the deepest part of Hell and make it into an antidote potion before the next full moon or the princess dies. Things have changed a little --okay, a lot-- since old Dante made his visit. Hell is timeless, existing in all times simultaneously. Along the way they'll meet the Furies, a little thief named Dodger, a few gods and goddesses, and step over Satan's chewing gum. They're getting quite an education. This is no morality tale.
Zara watched from beneath her slit eyelids as Kennit rose from the table, rubbed his eyes, and knelt before her fireplace. Oh, would he? She hoped he’d build up the fire. With his slim back to her, she couldn’t see what he did until the fire roared to life. Three “chunks” echoed as he fed the hungry beast with large logs. Slowly, the temperature of the room climbed to an almost comfortable range, even though the sturdy bricks of her fireplace glowed with heat.
Kennit rose with a satisfied smile, and took off his velvet jacket and vest, leaving him clad only in a thin lawn shirt and his tailored velvet pants. He looked as sleek as the dark lions that ranged the mountains, predatory and deadly. His long lean body silhouetted against the bright firelight, and his glasses were not visible. Suddenly, he was even more attractive to her than that first meeting on the cliff. Now she knew his mind and his humor, and found more and more to like about this mysterious prince.
Her blood fired, as it had not in many a moon, adding to her odd fever where her brow was hot but her hands and feet frozen. Zara wanted to leap from the bed, tear the clothes from his body, and bear him down to the floor until her lust was satiated. Someone had been kind enough to remove her dress, leaving her clad in only a chemise, which would make the job easy.
Kennit’s eyes lingered on her body, where the chemise did nothing to hide her hardened nipples. “I take it you’re awake?”
There was no sense in denying the truth. Zara sat up from the pile of pillows. Swallowing her insane lust, she attempted normal conversation. “Yes, and I have been since you found the poison used upon me. I have one moon cycle?”
Disappointment shuttered his eyes for a brief flicker, and Zara realized he’d recognized her lust for what it was. He had been hopeful, yet he remained politely respectful of her choices in such matters. Kennit brought her the tome, and put it upon her lap.
Zara squinted to read the blurry writing. “Where Azi chews is where the antidote lies, but the Lord of Lies demands his price. With the turning of the moon from blood to bone, the victim joins the damned unknown.” She looked up at Kennit’s serious face. “I don’t understand.”
“I do. Azi is the snake that embodies falsehood. This refers to Satan, who is also the Lord of Lies. I don’t know what Azi chews upon, but I think we’ll find out. The turning of the moon from blood to bone is easy. Turning from dark to light, or from dark to full.” He sighed and reached for a goblet. “You have until the next full moon before you join the damned in Hell.” He held out the goblet. “Fire whiskey? I thought you might need it.”
Zara snatched the goblet and slugged down the brew usually known only to the roughest mercenaries in her father’s army. She coughed and wheezed when the whiskey reached back up her throat to remind her head it was an intoxicant, but welcomed the spin it provided. Perhaps it would restart her heart. She handed back the empty vessel. “So when do we leave?”
“We?” Kennit raised one elegantly winged eyebrow. “I think not, Zara. You’re fevered and you shiver when the room is not hot enough to bake bread on the table. You’re in no condition to journey to Hell.”
Her hand took a fistful of his shirt and twisted until his face was inches from hers. “Then Hell would be warm enough, would it not?” Zara jerked again, bringing his lips to hers. She demanded, and he gave grudgingly, each of them fighting a different war.
He fought to maintain propriety, and even perhaps his dignity. Were it not for the lust in his kiss, and the way his tongue sought her mouth eagerly, Zara might have thought him to be the innocent virgin she should have been. One groan, and he lost the battle he didn’t want to win.
Pushed back on the pillows, Zara squeaked in surprise and let go of his shirt. His mouth crushed hers, and her left hand tangled in his right as if he would hold her down. Hah! As if she would fight him to prevent what she so desperately wanted her cunt ached and clenched.
Kennit gentled his kiss, but did not release her hand. Finally, he relinquished her lips but not her hand. “You’re insane with fever, Zara. We should not.”
Zara wanted with all her heart to reach up, fist her right hand in his hair, and force him to her desire, but here was a man who was honorable and actually considered the consequences. She had to admire that strength of will. Most men would tumble her without a thought. “I’m tired of being at someone’s will and whim, Kennit. Decisions were made in my name and without my consent, including someone attempting to end my life. No more, I say. Tonight and henceforth, I fight my own battles for my life and future. I choose you to celebrate my freedom. Won’t you join me?”
His eyes darkened with thought, and turned inward. The silence lengthened. Zara could hear the frogs croaking in the moat while he pondered what she’d said. Finally, he nodded. “How could I refuse such a gracious invitation to aid in a worthy cause? I will celebrate with you tonight. Tomorrow, we shall consider how we’ll journey into Hell.”