I’ve been with Authors After Dark since the very first year. In fact, I remember the day Stella asked me to be a part of the first conference. She sent me this very professional, very outlined proposal inviting me to come to the conference. I read it on my blackberry as my husband drove me to Barnes & Noble, and just as we turned into the parking lot I responded, “Sure. I’ll go.”
Because I am nothing if not professional.
That first year was amazing. My husband got swine flu. No, I’m not kidding. He spent he first AAD in the hotel room with a raging fever, while I buzzed from event to event like a frantic, soon-to-be-widowed bee. He was feeling a little better the night of the costume party, so my BFF Jill and I went to the party, where Jill promptly came down with swine flu, leaving me unattended in a room with a bar. There was drinking. There was a lot of drinking. I’m pretty sure I stole tableware. I woke up in a stranger’s bathtub.
So, naturally, I’ve been down for going every year since. It’s always such an amazing opportunity to have new experiences, especially if you’re clinically insane. Last year, I spent quite a bit of time window peeking on the same perpetually nude gentleman whose apartment was unfortunately close to the parking garage.
That’s not to say that you mostly sane people won’t have an amazing time. You totally will, enjoying the sane, normal things that people enjoy. These things include, but are not limited to, meeting your favorite authors, seeing local sights (I want to meet a shadow man and get turned into a frog who cracks wise!), and making friendships that will last a lifetime. AAD is unlike any conference I’ve ever been to before, because egos are checked at the door, making it a friendly, awesome place to be.
So, that is a little bit of my experience with AAD. I’ll be in NOLA this year, and Savannah the next, and I plan to keep going forever because it’s a celebration of the books we love to write and read.
Now, I’m really excited and pleased to introduce you to my latest novella, BEAST. Set in the fictional kingdom of Chevudon, the latest installment in my Naughtily Ever After series is a re-imagining of what else, Beauty and The Beast. It’s all about love and redemption, and since so many people asked when they’d get to see his story, it’s also all about Prince Philipe. So please, enjoy this blurb and excerpt, and one lucky reader will walk away with a free copy!
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Accused of treason by his own father, Prince Philipe of Chevudon finds his flight to safety cut short by an arrow to the shoulder. There is only one person to whom he can turn for help, the only woman he ever loved, the only person he ever truly betrayed…
Following the destruction of her home and family in a fire that left her horribly disfigured, Johanna has lived a life of hardship and pain. When her lost love comes to her, wounded and on the run from his father’s guard, she cannot turn him away. But she cannot forgive him either.
Can a prince who was once a beast earn back the love he cast aside?
A hot bath, a good meal, and a vigorous whore were all Philipe longed for, in that order, as his horse pounded down the frozen road. Knowing that such luxuries were unlikely didn’t stop him from wanting them. He’d been riding hard for three days, his father’s men at his heels like dogs on a fox.
“We’re but a mile from Clatterbuck,” Jessop, Philipe’s companion, once captain of his palace guard, called to him over the thunder of hooves. He was breathless from the ride, and red-faced, and Philipe knew that he might as well have been staring into a mirror. An exhausted, unshaven mirror.
“If Lord Fueil has not forsaken us, I may make it out of the kingdom alive.” He gripped the reins tighter in his swollen fingers, the cold leather of his gloves creaking.
It was a strange position he found himself in, that of the fugitive crown prince. His father, once Albart the Wise, King of Chevudon, had become Albart the suspicious, Albart the confused. Albart the paranoid and vindictive, who’d driven his own son from the palace with allegations of treason.
Philipe plotted the route in his mind. Shelter for the night behind the walls of Fueil’s fortress, then to the border and beyond, where his father’s men could not seek him. But as they rode on, his own suspicions deepened. The hovels on the outskirts of Fueil’s land showed no signs of life. Further into the village, not a chimney smoked nor a babe cried.
“It’s deserted,” Philipe said, scanning the low rooftops. His exhausted horse nickered and stepped restlessly.
“I don’t like this, Your Highness.” Jessop looked over his shoulder. “I think we may already be trapped.”
He’d barely finished his sentence before a thump widened his eyes and he fell from the saddle, an arrow protruding from his chest. Philipe ducked and tugged the reins, bringing his horse around to shield the fallen man. For but a moment, he considered trying to save Jessop. Another arrow sliced through the air, striking his horse in the neck. The animal reared back, spilling Philipe to the ground. He caught the reins of Jessop’s horse. The man lay on the ground, unmoving, as the hooves of Philipe’s wounded, maddened horse struck the mud around him. Jessop was dead, that much was clear, and Philipe did not intend to waste such a noble man’s death. He put his heels to Jessop’s horse, freeing the animal to carry him wherever it may, so long as it was out of this place.
Fueil, you bastard! When this was finished, when Philipe returned to his kingdom to inherit his throne, he would have the traitorous lord’s head on a pike.
Something struck him in the shoulder. A stone? He was nearly unhorsed, but righted himself in the saddle, arm aching. Only when he tried to lift it did he feel the sharp, shattering pain of splintered muscle and bone. The shaft of an arrow protruded from his shoulder, and hot blood wet his arm inside his sleeve. He cursed and reached for his sword, but the pain of the motion made him scream as the world blackened, only for an instant. He fought to clear his head. If he were to fall now, it would be over. He would wake in father’s dungeons, awaiting execution, or perhaps he would not wake at all.
Snow drifted through the treetops as riders pursued him, back the way he’d come, farther from the border that would be his safety. In his mind, he conjured a map of his father’s kingdom. It was thirty leagues to the border, and his horse was good for a few miles, at most. If he could have burned Fueil’s lands with the fire of his rage, he would have.
Fire. The word branded the map in his head with another, wholly unpleasant option. To the northeast lay Hazelhurn. The one place in the entire kingdom he might trade for the underworld. But it wasn’t death that frightened him so. He had to live, so that his father’s throne would be inherited by someone with reason and sanity, not some power-mad courtier who would be worse than the feeble-minded old man.
He would go to Hazelhurn, and the gods help him. But first, he had to lose the men following him. Plunging his horse headlong into the trees, he kept low and prayed that the lord of Hazelhurn would be far kinder to him than he deserved.